The Ottawa Redblacks have experienced a rodeo type of season so far. Similar to a rodeo, when a person falls off, they dust themselves off and get back on it. The reasons why the defending Grey Cup Champions can look forward to getting back on bull after a tough 2017 campaign to a perfect Redblacks playoffs situation is their schedule, the adversity they’ve faced during the year, and the hometown pride that could just carry them to a repeat title.
The Redblacks hold a record on 7-9-1 after a game-winning drive led Trevor Harrisagain the Roughriders. Oddly enough they only have one more game remaining with three week remaining. Thanks to an outrageous schedule, that saw them play three games in 10 days early on in the season. The team has finally been rewarded for their efforts with two bye weeks in the home stretch of the seasom. This gives Ottawa an opportunity to get fully healthy and equipped for the playoffs, especially for pivot Trevor Harris.
The 31-year-old missed four weeks due to a shoulder injury and any extra time to get healthy before the playoff football is a massive boast. Harris still sits third is passing yards and first in touchdown throws with all the time he’s missed. In his first game back from the injured list, he tossed for 380 yards and a trio of touchdowns in Ottawa’s victory over the B.C. Lions. The Edinboro product followed it up with a comeback victory capped off by game-winning drive on the road.
Adversity for any team can either break them or bring them closer. In the case for the Redblacks it has brought them closer and will allow them to peak at the right time.
They started the season with back-to-back games against the Calgary Stampeders. They went back and forth but a couple costly mistakes handed them a tie and a loss. The Redblacks went spiralling out of control after that. Ottawa went on to drop five of their next six contests. What’s even more heart breaking about those loses was all were decided by one possession and only one was more than field goal. Majority of them came down to Ottawa inflicting self-imposed wounds.
The team did not fold in the face of adversity; they fought back, rallying for three straight wins. Even when Harris was injured against the Tiger-Cats in Week 12, the Redblacks somehow stayed in games every week. Even with third string pivot Trevor Lindley started two straight games, they stayed competitive, including in a one-point defeat to the Roughriders.
No matter who’s leading the charge for Ottawa under centre, they are within striking distance of being victories. Eight of the nines times Ottawa been at the losing end, the point differential was under seven. All of these suffering blows hasn’t shattered the Redblacks belief in themselves, if anything it’s assisted the growth. They can draw from the negative experience when the big moments arise. Witnessing their previous two comeback victories, this group seems as confident as ever.
Just last year with all the story lines coming out of Ottawa’s camp, they finished the year 7-8-1. And they went on the beat one of the CFL’s all-time great teams in the Calgary Stampeders to capture the Grey Cup.
The fans in Ottawa are wild. They show up in full force and get extremely loud at TD Place Stadium. After the Redblacks played their last road game at Saskatchewan on Friday, they now get a bye week before they host the Ticats in their final regular season game. This game will have important playoff implications. With Hamilton eliminated from the playoff picture, Ottawa is now fighting for the East Division crown. If they do capture it for a second year, they’ll have back-to-back bye weeks (since they’re on bye in Week 20) and host the Division Finals.
Even though the Redblacks hold a 2-5-1 record at home so far, it’s hard not to side with the home team coming off a bye week. Head coach Rick Campbell and his staff get an extra week to dissect any team that they have to face. And Ottawa is hosting the 105th Grey Cup. That puts additional pressure to be the first team to win the Grey Cup on their home field since the Toronto Argonauts did on the 100th anniversary. Ottawa could play the remainder of 2017 on their home turf.
Finally, when playoff football comes around in the cold month of November, it usually comes down to who wants it more. With 24,000-plus rocking at TD Place Stadium it could provide the extra boost of energy needed to push the Redblacks to the Division Final.
The Redblacks faced an uphill climb since the 2017 schedule was released. It’s dragged on into the campaign. As the regular season ticks down, the stars are lining up for Ottawa to make another deep playoff run. The schedule, the adversity the team has faced, and the incredible hometown pride positions the defending Grey Cup Champions perfectly.
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