On Saturday afternoon the Saskatchewan Roughriders dropped yet another late season game, this time losing 31-26 at Mosaic Stadium to the Toronto Argonauts. This years’ Riders are a vast improvement over last season’s incarnation, but this three game losing streak has shown that the magic of the late 00’s is gone in Riderville as Taylor Field hasn’t been the site of a late season surge heading into the playoffs since I was in high school.
Part of this is to be expected, Darian Durant, who I was not high on heading into the season and fairly can be placed into the overrated category, ranks sixth in the CFL in QB rating this season and his endearing quality of pulling out clutch drives has seemed to pass him by. In fact, the Riders signature come from behind win of the season came from the arm of backup quarterback Drew Willy and the Riders have won most of their games by holding onto leads with their defense this season. In fact the Riders are 0-7 when trailing after the fourth quarter this season, an appalling statistic given the fact that Durant’s fourth quarter play was once legendary.
Kory Sheets has been a revelation for the Riders this season and Weston Dressler has been the Riders MVP all year long, but when it comes down to that late game swagger that so often swung late season games for the Riders, it has remained to be seen. The offense just simply can’t come up with the big plays that a contending team needs to make.
Three straight losses to Edmonton, Montreal, and Toronto respectively has erased the good vibes of their strong September and their win over the BC Lions at home. Playoffs are a guarantee heading into the final week of the regular season, but the hope of building momentum on the road will be a hard ask as a Saturday night clash with the BC Lions looms on the horizon. In fact, momentum building might not even be a possibility with the potential of the Lions sitting their star players as Travis Lulay injury concerns and a home berth in the Western Division final have been locked up for the Lions heading into this weekend.
I haven’t said much about the Riders this season, I expected them to make the playoffs and after the start of the season and Calgary losing starting quarterback Drew Tate to injury I expected them to have a home playoff date in the Western Division semifinal as the West’s second place finisher. But, inconsistent play and the aforementioned 0-7 record after trailing in the fourth quarter has the Riders hopes at a low point heading into the playoffs. Can the Riders get a lead on any of the potential playoff matchups they will see ? The Stampeders will be a tough matchup if the Riders stay in the West when the Eastern Division playoff picture is sorted out, the Riders are 0-3 against the Stampeders this season and even though a quarterback controversy between Drew Tate and Kevin Glenn is providing as a distraction, the Stamps would be the favorites at have been the more clutch team this season.
The East crossover provides a much better scenario for the Riders opening round chances. Should Edmonton win and the Riders lose, Saskatchewan would travel to Toronto to open the playoffs. Despite the home loss Saturday, the Riders did dominate the Argos 36-10 on their trip to the Rogers Centre this season and would have much better odds of making the Grey Cup through Toronto then Montreal then through Calgary and a harrowing trip to the fortress that has become BC Place in the playoffs.
Regardless of how Week 19 plays out, the Riders have lacked the signs of a team that has a chance to make a surprising run to the Grey Cup. However it needs to be said that even though the teams of the 00’s that had that November magic often weren’t supposed to win either. A win on Saturday night in BC would put some to ease in Riderville, but the fact is we really shouldn’t get our hopes up until we see some magic out of Durant and co. when it matters the most, which is in the fourth quarter.