CALGARY — Chris Jones’s Roughriders are within touching distance of ending a two-year playoff drought that has felt like an eternity in the province of Saskatchewan.
At 8-7, the Riders’ magic number is one — a win against Calgary, or a BC loss on Saturday against Edmonton — to earn a berth in the 2017 CFL playoffs.
They can seal their own future with a stamp of authority — no pun intended — with a win over the Stamps at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium on Friday night.
Their opponents, the class of the regular season for a second-straight year with a 13-1-1 record, won’t make it easy: Dave Dickenson’s team has won both previous meetings between the two, including a narrow 15-9 win just four weeks ago.
Calgary can also clinch home-field advantage in the Western Final with a win.
As it seems to so often do, conversation around Riders camp centerd around enigmatic receiver Duron Carter this week.
Fresh off a historic 231-yard effort in last week’s loss to Ottawa, Carter was involved in a scuffle at practice with teammate Sam Williams. Rumors spread that Saskatchewan’s largest personality was ‘done’ with the green men, only for it to emerge on Thursday that Carter will be playing both sides of the ball against Calgary.
“He is going to be a tired young man after this football game,” Riders head coach Chris Jones told Riderville.com of Carter’s workload come Friday. “Will he play every snap on offence? No. Will he play every defensive snap? No. But he’s going to play a lot of football.”
The Saskatchewan receiver is embracing his opportunity to see snaps on the defensive side of the football.
“It kind of started as a joke, telling Coach Jones, ‘I can get out there’,” said Carter. “He sort of put me to the test. I got out there in practice and he sort of liked what he saw…I’ve been working with him, coming in early, meeting with Coach (Jason) Shivers and getting the defense down so I can be productive.”
Jokes, drama and Twitter wars aside, there is little doubt the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. native has been one of the league’s most productive receivers in 2017: He ranks fifth in receiving yards (1,037) and is tied for third in touchdown receptions (8).
Jones’s charges will need to raise their level of play down the stretch to have a shot at emerging from the fierce battleground that the West Division playoffs will be. The Riders are just 3-5 against their own division in 2017, and 4-4 on the road — matchups they’ll need to find a way to win in order to return to the Grey Cup.
Kevin Glenn will once again get the nod under center for the Riders; the wily veteran threw for 387 yards in last week’s loss to Ottawa, and needs just 148 yards in the air at McMahon on Friday to eclipse the 4,000-yard mark for the first time since 2012.
On the Stampeders side of the matchup, it’s business as usual.
Dave Dickenson’s football team hasn’t dropped points in over three months; Calgary scores more (32.7 PF) and allows fewer (17.8 PA) points than anyone else in the league; the Stamps have allowed 116 points fewer than anybody else.
Naturally, given their unsavoury ending to the 2016 season at the 104th Grey Cup in Toronto, the Stamps aren’t taking anything for granted — nor do they plan on letting up as the season winds down.
“You want a home playoff game and then you want the bye (in the first round of the playoffs),” Dickenson told Stampeders.com. “We’ve accomplished one and we know it’s in our court. We need to play well and we’re playing a good team this week and we’re at our house.”
Calgary can expect some varied looks from Chris Jones’s Saskatchewan defense, something that gave the typically-smooth Stamps offense fits in their last meeting.
“We know that (Jones) will have new stuff, and I don’t know exactly what flavour he’ll call, but we’ll certainly have practised against all the looks we’ve seen,” outlined the Calgary head coach. “I try to call a game and manage a game that I feel will win the game…stats and all the rest of it is for other people to worry about.”
Star receiver DaVaris Daniels returns to the Stamps lineup this week after being sidelined in Week 12 with an injury; the Notre Dame product had hauled in 595 receiving yards and four touchdowns at the time of his injury.
“Just to be out on the field with the offence and my teammates is long overdue,” said Daniels at practice this week. “The thing about our group is we always preach next man up — you’re expected to make plays.”
As for a potential matchup with the trash-talking Carter, Daniels isn’t hiding his excitement.
“It’s exciting — if they put him there, I’m sure Bo (Levi Mitchell) is going to be salivating,” chuckled Daniels. “For the most part, we’re going to treat him like he is a DB, we’ll do everything we do against a normal guy. We’ll see what he’s got, I guess.”
By The Numbers
1 – Win in 12 tries for Saskatchewan QB Kevin Glenn as a visitor to Calgary’s McMahon Stadium.
12 – Field goals needed by Calgary’s Rene Paredes to equal Justin Medlock‘s single-season record of 60.
17 – Consecutive home wins for the Stampeders, tied for third-longest in CFL history.
84 – Yards required by Riders REC Bakari Grant to reach the 1,000-yard mark in 2017.
Well isn’t this shaping up to be a doozy?
The storylines are plentiful: Both the visiting Riders and hometown Stamps have something within their clinching reach, Saskatchewan has narrowed the gap with Calgary over the course of the season, and all the Duron Carter-related drama of the week is a stand-alone topic.
The facts speak for themselves: Calgary and Saskatchewan are the two best defensive teams in the league, full stop. Number one and number two. If their meeting last month — a 15-9 decision in favor of the first-place Stamps — was any indication, we should expect another smash-mouth contest with plenty of defensive highlights.
Then again, it’s not as though these two teams lack offensive weapons.
Either way, this is a must-watch game simply for the prospect of DaVaris Daniels lining up against Duron Carter for a competitive snap.
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.