CFL semifinal picks: Can the Riders back up their talk?

The Riders have been talkin’ quite a game, now it’s time to show the green and white can hold up to their words.

Saskatchewan begins the possible road to the Grey Cup through the East Division against 2016 Grey Cup champs Ottawa Redblacks. Meanwhile, a streaking Edmonton squad faces a seemingly fading Bombers side.

Playoffs are upon us.

Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Chris Jones. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor

East seminfinal: Saskatchewan Roughriders at Ottawa Redblacks

Sunday, 1 p.m. EST

Saskatchewan (11-7), in the CFL playoffs for the first time since 2014, visits the defending-champion Ottawa Redblacks (8-9-1) in the East Division semifinal Sunday. The Riders secured a post-season berth as the crossover squad by finishing fourth in the West Division but accumulating more points than the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (6-12).

So the Riders will have to beat both Ottawa and the Toronto Argonauts (9-9) on the road to advance to the Grey Cup game later this month at TD Place. Now, that’s possible given Saskatchewan defeated both teams this season and was not only 5-4 on the road but also a solid 6-2 versus East rivals.

Trouble is, no crossover team has ever made it to the Grey Cup since the rule was adopted in 1996. Saskatchewan becomes the 10th crossover team in league history but the visiting squad has just three wins in 12 playoff games.

Saskatchewan last won the Grey Cup in 2013. Edmonton beat Hamilton 27-24 in last year’s East semifinal before losing 35-23 to Ottawa in the conference final at snowy TD Place.

Ottawa and Saskatchewan last met in the CFL playoffs in 1976 when Tony Gabriel’s late 24-yard TD grab earned the then-Rough Riders a thrilling 23-20 victory at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium.

The season series was 1-1 with each game decided by a point.

Punter Josh Bartel’s 55-yard single with under three minutes remaining earned Saskatchewan an 18-17 road win Sept. 29. Riders’ starter Kevin Glenn registered his 100th career regular-season victory after completing 20-of-32 passes for 252 yards and an interception.

But Christion Jones registered the big play for Saskatchewan with a 97-yard punt return TD. The loss tarnished a stellar performance by Ottawa’s William Powell, who ran for a club-record 187 yards as backup Ryan Lindley finished 17-of-31 passing for 164 yards with a TD and interception.

Two weeks later, Lindley’s one-yard TD run on the game’s final play gave Ottawa a 33-32 victory in Regina. Glenn threw for 387 yards with two TDs and two interceptions while Duron Carter registered 11 catches for 231 yards.

Trevor Harris, who threw for 262 yards and two TDs in the win, will make his first CFL playoff start for the Redblacks, who finished their regular season with three straight victories.

Glenn will make his 11th career playoff start for Saskatchewan but Ottawa must be wary of Brandon Bridge, a Mississauga, Ont., native, who has played well this season both coming off the bench and as a starter.

The six-foot-five 230-pound Bridge is a multi-threat player who can run upfield or buy his receivers time downfield. And with Carter (73 catches, 1,043 yards, eight TDs), Roosevelt Naaman (75 catches, 1,035 yards, eight TDs) and Bakari Grant (84 catches, 1,033 yards, five TDs), Saskatchewan has a solid receiving corps that also includes Chad Owens, Rob Bagg and Caleb Holley.

And there’s also Carter’s contributions on defence as a cornerback.

Saskatchewan kicker Tyler Crapigna made 36-of-42 field goal tries this year (85.7 per cent) and all 43 converts he attempted. He hit all seven field goals he tried in the two games against Ottawa.

Hodge: Riders eliminate the reigning Grey Cup champs. RIDERS
Dunk: Riders wanted to go East. RIDERS
Gasson: Flip a coin. REDBLACKS
Edwards: Saskatchewan talked it up. Now they back it up. RIDERS
Busby: Regardless of who plays quarterback, the Riders are a strong group. RIDERS
Filoso: Hard to bet against the team coming off a bye, on a three-game win streak AND at home. REDBLACKS
Smith: I’ll take the playoff-tested squad over the newbies. REDBLACKS

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols (15). THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

West semifinal: Edmonton Eskimos at Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Sunday, 4:30 p.m. EST

Winnipeg (12-6) hosts its first playoff game since 2011 and won the season series 2-0. But Edmonton (12-6) finished the regular season with five straight wins, including a 28-13 decision over the Riders to cement third in the West Division.

Edmonton’s last loss was a 28-19 decision to Winnipeg on Sept. 30. The Bombers were 2-3 down the stretch.

The Eskimos are the first 12-win team in CFL history to open the playoffs on the road.

Matt Nichols (628 yards passing, three TDs) and Andrew Harris (159 rushing yards, 17 catches, 201 yards) both figured prominently in the wins for Winnipeg. Both will play Sunday but Nichols is nursing a reported calf injury, hardly ideal for a Bombers’ offence that averaged a CFL-best 27.6 offensive points per game.

Then again, Harris is the central figure in Winnipeg’s offence, leading the CFL in rushing (1,035 yards) and catches (105). A Bombers defence minus lineman Jamaal Westerman and defensive back Maurice Leggett finished No. 7 in points allowed (27.9 per game), second-last in offensive TDs allowed (50) and tied for last in most TD passes (33) despite registering a league-leading 24 interceptions and 42 turnovers (second-most).

Edmonton counters with CFL passing leader Mike Reilly (5,536 yards, tied for league lead with 30 TDs) who’s also a threat to run (league-best 12 rushing TDs). Brandon Zylstra (100 catches, 1,687 yards, five TDs) but veterans Derel Walker, Adarius Bowman and Vidal Hazelton are all solid options.

Hodge: Winnipeg weather makes the difference. BOMBERS
Dunk: Healthier and better QB. ESKS
Gasson: Edmonton is hot right now. ESKS
Edwards: Nichols isn’t a 100 per cent and Edmonton is rolling. ESKS
Busby: One team is on a roll and the other is beat up. The one on the roll rules. ESKS
Filoso: Home field advantage doesn’t make up for all the injuries. ESKS
Smith: If Winnipeg was at full health, they’d be my pick. But they aren’t. ESKS
Totals: ESKS 6 BOMBERS 1

Season records
Dunk: 57-23-1
Gasson: 55-25-1
Edwards: 55-25-1
Hodge: 54-26-1
Busby: 53-28-1
Filoso: 52-28-1
Smith: 46-34-1


23 Comments on CFL semifinal picks: Can the Riders back up their talk?

  1. I believe Riders were 10-8 This year?? Hope this weekends football games are hard fought, close in scoring and no further injuries, best of luck to all. My picks Winnipeg by 2 & Saskatchewan by 6

    • Good post Blue Rules! Both of these games should be close hard fought games and hopefully no serious injuries. I also hope the command centre won’t be necessary as they are 98% heads up their a$$ and usually at critical junctures of the game. Good luck to all teams and I hope all fans enjoy a showcase of the best game in the world. Love the CFL!!

  2. greenonions // November 12, 2017 at 10:41 am //

    Knowing Saskatchewan, if they win the Cup Carter gets a statue next to Ronnie & George. Never has so much ink been spilt over a 10th ranked receiver. The overhyped, overblown Carter saga ends here – or does it go one more week? Fingers crossed – Ottawa & Esks advance.

    • It’s called entertainment and the league needs more characters like DC and dare I say it, Jason Maas. If you want a vanilla league, there’s always the NFL. Maybe you should change your name from green onions to sour grapes.

    • Ernie Einstein IV // November 12, 2017 at 1:54 pm //

      Open your little pea brain Spleen Onions. Your jealousy is so loud you might as well typed all in CAPS. Over hyped and over blown receiver that is multi talented and showed that by going into Calgary and took a TD home from Bo. In fact Carter had more receiving yards than any of the Stamps receivers did.
      I believe greenonion and white horse and every other alias is the same dude that use to call himself Lionsfan on TSN back when BC was leading the league. It’s pretty obvious you have no real team and your only mission in life is to pick the team with the most wins and then spread your OCD all over any web site that talks about the Riders.
      Ever since Rider Natipn won an award at the CFL awards night back in 2010. You cant help that illness. Can you.

  3. 4 Championships in 107 years says tells me no they can’t back up their talk. You’d think the organization (and fanbase) would’ve learned to be a little more humble by now.

  4. JAKEtheSNAKE // November 12, 2017 at 11:08 am //

    AMAZING.. Filoso actually went against the Redblacks. I’m shocked! Oh wait, he picked the Redblacks, AGAIN (as always). HOMERISM!

  5. greenonions // November 12, 2017 at 12:17 pm //

    I don’t recall the Rider fan base calling the Carter Chronicles in Mtl “entertaining” last year. I guess the colour green makes all things wonderful. Sorta like all things turning unwonderful once they leave the Regina bubble…….Durant, Dressler, Chick, Getzaf…….(oh wait, he’s wonderful again). LOL

    • True Green // November 12, 2017 at 4:51 pm //

      I still have a ton of respect for chick dressler and Durant. Like any player when they’re gone but were good team players while they were here, you wish them well but what else are you supposed to do? Cheer for them when they’re playing against you? As for Carter I️ didn’t pay much attention to him while he was in Montreal. But whatever his past he has been a great asset to Sask!

    • And it’s people like you that love to stir up the pot then complains about mouthy Rider fans. Take a look in the mirror.

  6. Is Jacque the crock – officiating ??

  7. Just a 'Riders fan // November 12, 2017 at 12:44 pm //

    The salary cap era means it’s a different league today. In the past, EDM, BCL, TOR, etc. could buy championships while SSK had to hold telethons just to ensure we had a team. Then when the ‘Riders became profitable, the League mandated the cap instead of using it as a “guideline for spending.” Since then, the ‘Riders have been about as successful as any other team in the Cup… except WPG.

    • Rider fan…so the cap is all part of that great conspiracy to keep the dastardly riders down right?

      • Just a ‘Riders fan // November 12, 2017 at 2:50 pm //

        “Conspiracy” is your word, not mine. I suggest it’s bad timing or Murphy’s Law.

        • True Green // November 12, 2017 at 4:58 pm //

          Point is SK has been an underdog for most of cfl history. SK has only had a strong economy for the past 13 years. The cap now puts all teams on the same level. That’s good for all teams and the league and the fans. Stamps fans are especially bitter about our success over the past ten years because much of it has come at their expense during the playoffs. That, and they hate all the green in their stadium.

  8. The 13th Rider // November 12, 2017 at 2:06 pm //

    This is the ring-a-ding-dong-dandy game of the semi’s, you gotta give Ottawa credit for trying to hang around at least, their lucky to have 8 points. I’ll predict 24 -8 Riders by end of half, Rollem – Rollem, Riders yeah!

  9. Rider Prider // November 12, 2017 at 2:42 pm //

    Lol has filoso ever bet against the Redbacks this season?

  10. The 13th Rider // November 12, 2017 at 3:13 pm //

    Special teams, turn overs, Ottawa looks rusty?

  11. Apparently they can.

  12. Yes

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