DAVIS: Riders well positioned for post-season success

With the Saskatchewan Roughriders assured of a postseason berth and working toward hosting their first playoff game since 2013, I recalled once telling a coach that his team was so bad it was saving everyone money by not qualifying for the CFL playoffs.

That team didn’t have to pay stadium rent into November, the players could give 30-days notice to leave their rented apartments on Oct. 31 and Riders fans didn’t have to buy playoff tickets. Needless to say, the coach wasn’t amused.

This year’s version of the Roughriders started the season looking like money-savers, too, losing four of its first seven games, including a loss to the woeful Montreal Alouettes. Saskatchewan’s low-risk, ball-control offence was horrible back then, operating without concussed quarterback Zach Collaros while trying to adapt to deep-passing, strong-running backup Brandon Bridge.

With Collaros back at the controls, Saskatchewan’s oft-ineffective offence has had a few memorable moments while its defence and special teams have continued being the primary reasons for winning seven of the team’s last eight contests. Defensive end Willie Jefferson, rookie cornerback Nick Marshall, who doubles as the short-yardage quarterback, and returners Kyran Moore, another rookie, and Christion Jones, who is missing with a long-term injury, have provided game-turning plays. So, too, has backup tailback Marcus Thigpen.

The Roughriders’ offence averages 20 points per game, placing it seventh in the nine-team league, and there’s concern that in a sudden-death game it won’t supply enough firepower to supplement the scoring that regularly comes from the defence and special teams. That’s been the fear all season, yet here the Roughriders sit with their 10-5 record and holding second place in the West, which would guarantee them a November home game, specifically on Sunday the 11th.

The Roughriders have three games remaining, all against West teams, starting Saturday in Winnipeg against the third-place Blue Bombers. Saskatchewan also gets its third regular-season bye on the final weekend of the schedule.

By beating the visiting Edmonton Eskimos 19-12 on Monday, with the game’s lone touchdown coming on Jefferson’s 49-yard interception return, the Roughriders could now be paying rent well into November. Two victories guarantee them a home playoff game.

The Roughriders won the 2013 Grey Cup at their old ballpark and are no longer that pitiful franchise that rarely makes the playoffs, having qualified as an East wildcard last year, but it’s been five years since they played a postseason game at home. If it happens, their fans will surely flock to two-year-old Mosaic Stadium for the facility’s first CFL playoff game, where tickets prices can cost more than $90 per game. And everybody will be happy.

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