It’s been a long five years in Saskatchewan but in the end, the wait has been more than worth it.
The last time the Riders welcomed someone to town (not including the 2013 Grey Cup) for a playoff game was the West semifinal in 2013. A game that will live on in Rider lore for decades to come thanks to a superhero like effort from quarterback Darian Durant in the fourth quarter that led the home team to a win over the B.C. Lions.
While that game was fun like any playoff game is bound to be, this upcoming matchup with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is one I’m sure both fanbases have been waiting for. Thanks to Winnipeg bouncing back and forth between the league’s two divisions, the Riders don’t have the playoff history with their closest rivals like they do the Calgary Stampeders or even the Lions for a time.
Those rivalries are or were fine and dandy, but there’s still nothing quite like the Riders and the Bombers. The lead up to this game should basically be like the Labour Day Classic and Banjo Bowl rolled into one. Those games are fun, but with a trip to the West Final on the line? Let’s go.
Will any players say anything out of line this week? We can only hope, but the odds are they won’t. Players across sports are so well trained to say the right things to the media that we’re all floored when someone says something. That’s fine too. This week will be driven by the fans, perhaps that’s how it should be. After all, they’re the ones who kept this rivalry alive despite the lack of meaningful games between the two franchises for the most part.
Playoff games are where the real bad blood is created. Heck, there was a time you could say the Riders had a bit of a thing going with the Alouettes after back-to-back Grey Cup games and an insane game to open the 2010 season. This is when the real fun is had. This is when the real beef is made.
This week should also be fun because really anything could happen. The Riders won the season series against Winnipeg but the Bombers did win their third and final meeting 31-0. Both teams have had some pretty serious ups and downs this year. Which Rider offence will show up? How will Zach Collaros feel? Can Winnipeg keep their recent roll going? We’ll all have predictions and thoughts, but the way this season as gone, it’s all guesswork at this point. This CFL season has been one of the more difficult to predict in recent years.
Heading into the final week of the regular season, the Riders still had a shot at winning the division and hosting the West Final. That didn’t work out and it’s probably fitting as they haven’t done anything the easy way this year. So, in a sense, playing in the semifinal feels right.
So does a long overdue matchup with the Bombers in November.