To Bye, or not to Bye, that is the question going around the office coolers in Rider Nation this week.
With 18 games in their ledger and a noble 12-6 record, the Riders have done everything they can to influence the 2018 regular season, and with one week left on the schedule the fate of the Saskatchewan Roughriders is in the hands of others.
Bye now you should know that the front-running Calgary Stampeeders are perilously perched on their high horse and if one of the hottest teams in the league - the BC Lions - can beat them this weekend in Vancouver, the Riders would claim top spot in the CFL, finish first in the West, and earn a bye for the first round of the playoffs. That means the Riders would have 2 consecutive bye weeks and would not have played a game for almost 3 weeks when they‘d kick off the West Final! It brings up the famed 'Rust versus Rest' debate.
I have always been on the “rust” side when it came to bye weeks. As in, I want to play. Chemistry, and having your team work like a well-oiled machine isn’t something you can just ‘flip a switch’ when you need it. When you have ‘it’ you have to work to keep ‘it’. As a player I was more wary of taking the time off and having rust settle in on our game than I was about getting rested; especially in the playoffs when the offseason, and 6 months of rest, is one play away.
Through 23 weeks of continuous beatings, somehow, your body/mind gets used to having to recover quickly to get ready for another game and another beatdown. The training staff does yeomen’s work in preparing athletes for battle on a weekly basis, and I feel as though any extended hiatus from action allows said “rust” to attach itself to injuries and make getting out on the field even harder.
I know this makes no sense. An injury that has had an extra week to heal should perform better than if it did not have that rest, however in one of my realities I feel as though through the grind of the season your body learns to compensate for injuries in order to get the desired performance. It is why you hear about players arriving and leaving the stadium on crutches, or getting surgeries right after the season. They’ve been injured all along, but they compensate, or “tough it out” in order to keep the mojo going in competition.
This “mojo” comes in many forms including game speed. We hear about superstar players talking about ‘the game slowing down’ for them when they’re playing well. This is that ‘mojo’ and it cannot be simulated in practice. It is impossible to simulate game speed and game vision in practice. It can’t be done. You can practice all you want but that only sharpens your senses to practice speed, your mind must take you the rest of the way until you’re under the lights, and in this space rust has 3 weeks to settle.
The longer you go without being under the lights, the more rust accumulates. It’s really quite an easy concept that has fit nicely into the corner of my mind for decades…until last Monday’s Sportscage when Rod Pedersen snickered at all my ‘complex ex-player analysis’ and threw down the trump card- NUMBERS! I am a sucker for the numbers.
He reminded us that that the team that finished first and got the bye won the Division Final and played in the Grey Cup over 80% of the time. In other words: winning one game (the West Final) will always be easier than winning two games (the semi AND the final). Duh!
All the ‘feels’ in the world can’t argue with this overwhelming stat. (It’s also why I didn’t open this article with it. It would have been a pretty short article). We want the bye.
As much as a numbers guy I am, I still questioned the bye until Odell Willis’s late hit that snapped Zach Collaros's neck back and bounced his head off of the turf at Mosaic late Saturday evening.
Say what you will about the Rider offence this season, but it is a much tamer beast without Zach in there. This is evident by 4 of the Riders' 6 loses coming with Zach missing all, or part, of the game as well as how many times Stephen McAdoo told Brandon Bridge to hand the ball to Cam Marshall when he got into the game on Saturday evening.
The week off is nice. An extra week of rest for Zach would be nice. An 80% chance at the Grey Cup would be really nice. But here’s some more numbers for you to think about:
- When we won in 2007 we finished second in the West to Calgary.
- In 2009 we went to the Show after finishing first and hosting Calgary in the West Final.
- In 2010 we went to the Show and finished second in the West to Calgary.
- In 2013 we won and finished second in the West to Calgary
Hmmmm….bye or no bye, feelings or no feelings, we have numbers and analytics on our side as the Green and White start their playoff journey to bring home their third Grey Cup in 11 years.
Go Riders! And Lions? or Stamps?
*I value your feedback on facebook @MikeAbou67
(Mike played 10 seasons in the CFL winning the Grey Cup in 2007 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. An Economist, Certified Financial Planner and Charter Life Underwriter, Mike run his practice through IG Wealth Management with offices in Moose Jaw and Regina)