LIVE STREAM PPV: CFL Playoffs – Saskatchewan Roughriders @Ottawa REDBLACKS Sunday Nov. 12 1p EDT (7p CEST)

By Marshall Ferguson

OTTAWA — All week long I’ve been looking for answers to questions surrounding the Eastern Semi-Final between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Ottawa REDBLACKS.

The cross-division clubs play Sunday at Ottawa’s TD Place, after the Riders crossed over following a 10-8 season and fourth-place finish in the West. The REDBLACKS were able to secure a home playoff game thanks to an 8-9-1 record, but go into the post-season on a three-game winning streak.

Who will replace the second down conversions supplied by Henry Burris? Which Saskatchewan quarterback will earn the trust of Riders head coach Chris Jones? Will Duron Carter play any snaps on defense now that Kacy Rodgers is healthy, and if he does, what impact will it have on the REDBLACKS’ offensive playcalling?

All of these questions and many more similar inquiries are still very much up in the air. The one think I know for certain is that when the clock strikes zeroes on Sunday, afternoon there will be a very good football team with no game to play the next week.

Ottawa WR Diontae Spencer had 3 catches for 71 yards and 1 TD in Ottawa’s win last month Photo: The Canadian Press

For the hometown REDBLACKS, this game is a chance to prove their early-season struggles and season-long futility at home in the regular season are irrelevant. The REDBLACKS have embraced getting the chance to play a game this week after having two late-season bye weeks.

A period of time which forced Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell to ramp up in season practice intensity. A rarity for most CFL squads, especially as the grind of the regular season wears down the health of many players in important roles.

If the REDBLACKS want to have success on Sunday against the Riders, they will need to win first down. ‘Winning’ first down doesn’t always mean scoring touchdowns and getting more than 10 yards every snap. What it means is staying on schedule by moving the ball at least 4-6 yards, allowing for a wide open playbook on second down.

If the Riders force incompletions and minimal rushing gains on first down, the Ottawa offence could be in trouble. On first down, Trevor Harris completes 75.8 per cent of his passes while on second down he completes 62.6 per cent. That’s a drop off of 13.2 per cent, a meaningful difference in the micro scheme of a playoff game.

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William Powell could play a large role in keeping the REDBLACKS’ offence on track to move the football and avoid those wacky Chris Jones second down blitz packages. Powell finished the regular season running for at least 100 yards in four of the team’s final six regular season games.

That includes a two game-stretch without Brad Sinopoli, who is done for the season due to injury which raises the importance of Diontae Spencer and Greg Ellingson’s production on all downs but especially on moments requiring a conversion.

With Sinopoli out, Rick Campbell’s club should still resemble the one that won three straight games to close out the 2017 season and put pressure on the Argos in the race for a division title.

On defense, Adrian James moves back to SAM linebacker while Nicholas Taylor moves to the defensive backfield, bumping rookie defender Winston Rose from the lineup.

Offensively the REDBLACKS get left tackle SirVincent Rogers and rookie receiver Josh Stangby back on the roster. Rogers moves into his usual tackle position while Jon Gott returns to his original spot at center, moving rookie Evan Johnson back to guard. Stangby will be a backup to Spencer at receiver and kick returner.

Saskatchewan KR Christion Jones Photo: The Canadian Press

For the always-entertaining Saskatchewan Roughriders, it is time to put their money where their mouth has been all year long.

Saskatchewan believes it has the most talented group of receivers in the CFL and a stable of running backs that any team would love to have at its disposal.

In the second half of the season, Saskatchewan has shown a higher level of interest not just in running the football but doing it in a punishing and repetitive way. That mentality will challenge the Ottawa front-seven, specifically interior defensive lineman standouts Jake Ceresna and Zach Evans, who seem more than ready for the challenge.

Who will be handing the ball off in that Riders ground attack remains a bit of a mystery. We know that Kevin Glenn is starting, but for how long? Brandon Bridge has been getting spot duty consistently throughout the second half of the season but has not played a single snap against the Ottawa REDBLACKS in two games (Week 15, Week 17).

When and where we will see Bridge remains in question, but that hasn’t stopped the Ottawa defense from preparing for both Riders pivots.

Duron Carter took more than half of the available snaps on defence for Saskatchewan since Week 18, when he officially made the leap from receiver to boundary corner to replace an injured Kacy Rodgers. Rodgers is back, healthy and listed on the depth chart as a stater for the Riders on Sunday, calling into question where No. 89 in green and white will line up most come playoff kickoff.

Chris Jones says the Riders aren’t planning to play Carter on defense this week, but regardless of where he is on the field, the Riders’ pass-catcher remains one of the CFL’s most explosive players when given the opportunity.

Henoc Muamba is sure to have an impact on the Riders playoff run at his middle linebacker position Sunday and could be fueled by what he deems as award season slight. In a West Division stacked with names like Solomon Elimimian and Alex Singleton, its difficult to find praise, but Muamba has earned every bit he gets this season.

With a trio of national free safeties in Marc-Olivier Brouillette, Jeff Hecht and Mike Edem available to Chris Jones, the Riders will rotate through a plethora of bodies on defense in hopes of wearing down a high tempo REDBLACKS offensive attack.

Finally, the Riders’ tailback situation also remains a mystery. Kienan LaFrance and Marcus Thigpen will get most of the work there, with Jones opting to leave Trent Richardson and Cameron Marshall — the team’s primary starting running backs throughout 2017 — off the roster.

AFI, Yare Media and the CFL

American Football International is collaborating with Yare Media and the Canadian Football League to present 2017 CFL games live. This is more than a livestream. This is a stream of the top flight TSN network television broadcast.

If you can’t watch it live, each game is available for viewing through the remainder of the season.

LIVE STREAM PPV: CFL Playoffs – Saskatchewan Roughriders @Ottawa REDBLACKS Sunday Nov. 12 1p EDT (7p CEST)

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