While it might not be a must-win game for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, it will be a pretty important one. The Riders bring their 3-3 record to Edmonton to take on the 4-2 Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium this Thursday night.
A Riders victory this week would create a three-way tie for second place in the CFL’s Western Division. A loss and the Riders remain in fourth position, just two points up on the last place B.C Lions.
Historically, the Riders have had a tough time finding wins in Edmonton. However, there are a few factors this week that could lead them to victory.
Getting Healthy At The Quarterback Position
After coming off the six-game injury list earlier this week, quarterback Zach Collaros will make his return to the line-up. Collaros sustained a head injury in the second game of the season in Ottawa and hasn’t seen the field since. This week, however, head coach Chris Jones said that Collaros “will play a bunch” this Thursday night.
Great news if you are a Riders fan. The offence this season has sputtered under back up quarterback Brandon Bridge. The Roughriders have a paltry four offensive touchdowns this year, with Collaros throwing for two of those in his six quarters of work this season.
The Roughriders desperately need a spark on offence and the addition of Collaros could be just what the doctor ordered.
Duron Carter Back to Offence
It has been well documented that receiver Duron Carter has spent the majority of his playing time on defence this season. While the offence has struggled, Chris Jones has been stubborn in moving Carter back to his regular spot at receiver. This will change on Thursday.
Defensive back Nick Marshall, who has been nursing a broken finger, will suit up against the Eskimos. Carter was moved to defence to replace Marshall earlier this season while he was on the six-game injury list. Marshall has been deemed healthy enough to play on Thursday, so Carter will be back on the offensive side of the ball.
Having Carter back at receiver will undoubtedly give the offence a much-needed jolt heading into this game.
Defence Must Capitalize on Eskimos Slow Starts
The Roughriders defence has been a bright spot this year in the Land of the Living Skies.
The defensive line continues to give opposing offences fits. Defensive end Charleston Hughes leads the way with a league-high eight sacks so far this season. The line has also not allowed a running back to eclipse the 100-yard mark at any point this season.
In addition, the Riders defence has accumulated three two touchdowns of their own this season and will need to be at their ball-hawking best on Thursday. With Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly playing MOP caliber football, the Riders defence will have their work cut out for them.
One of the Eskimos downfalls this season has been their slow starts. The Eskimos have been outscored a combined 47-13 in the first quarter over their last five games. The Riders defence will need to jump on them early and often for a chance to win this one.
Bring The Noise
Typically when the Riders come to Edmonton they bring a strong contingent of their rabid fan base with them. This game looks like it will be no exception. With reported ticket sales of over 32,000 as of Wednesday afternoon, this game is shaping up to have the largest crowd of the CFL season to date.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt either that the 50/50 jackpot starts at over $70,000 for this tilt. With the last Eskimos home game 50/50 jackpot going unclaimed, someone in the stands is going to win life-changing money. Just another reason to get down to the stadium if you are able.
One thing is for certain however, Commonwealth Stadium will be rocking on Thursday night. So bring the noise football fans – should be a heck of a game.
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