Like it or not, it’s a gloomy playoff picture for the Riders
Author: peter steele – contributor
After falling 40-27 to Calgary on Oct. 24, the Saskatchewan Roughriders now sit at 9-8 heading into a week nineteen bye before hosting Edmonton on the Nov. 8 season finale. The Riders would have clinched third place in the west with a win over the Stamps, but having lost, they may cross over to the east if B.C. overtakes them in the standings. Ultimately, the Riders will finish the season third or fourth in the west, securing seeding in either the western or eastern divisional playoffs.
The Roughriders’ struggles have been well-documented, from inconsistent quarterback play, to special teams blunders, and questionable coaching decisions. However, coach Chamblin hopes to have quarterback Darian Durant back for the playoffs. This is good news for the Riders, posting a 1-6 record since losing Durant. Having led Saskatchewan to a home championship in 2013, and a franchise-record 7-game win streak earlier this season, it has become painfully obvious that the Riders’ success ultimately depends on the consistent presence of the veteran leader – perhaps to a fault. In losing their leader, the team ultimately lost the season.
If Durant is out until the playoffs, it is likely the Riders will fall to fourth place and cross over to the east. In this case, the team will travel to face Toronto, Montreal, or Hamilton, depending on the final standings. Recently, Saskatchewan has lost 48-15 in Toronto, 40-9 in Montreal, and 28-3 in Hamilton. Granted, these losses came without Durant under centre, but the defense, special teams, and coaching also contributed to these blunders. Alternatively, if the Riders finish in third place in the west, they will travel to Edmonton, where on Sept. 26 they fell 24-0 to the Eskimos. In either case, Saskatchewan can’t compete in the playoffs without Darian Durant, and even he may not be enough.
There is no preferable path to the 2014 Grey Cup for the Roughriders. The team will be on the road throughout the post-season, and Durant may be out of sync with the offense when he returns, nearly two months removed from his most recent start. The team has been struggling, saturated with negative energy and press, and it seems unlikely that one player can turn it all around this late in the year.
Whether the Roughriders begin their post-season in the west or the east is irrelevant. The team is ice-cold without Durant, the replacement quarterbacks have played poorly, and the defense and special teams have been no better. A western playoff route would go through Edmonton, where the team was shut out on Sept. 26. If the team managed to scrape out a win against the Eskimos, they would then head to Calgary to play the first place Stampeders (14-2), who beat the Riders 40-27 at McMahon Stadium on Oct. 24. Having noted the Riders’ eastern opponents’ records against Saskatchewan, it is evident that an eastern route would be no easier, going through Montreal, Toronto, or Hamilton, all having convincingly beaten Saskatchewan recently. This is not the Riders’ year.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders will not advance past the first round of the 2014 CFL playoffs, regardless of their seeding. If you choose to believe that Darian Durant is the second coming, and that his return will somehow remedy all of the Riders’ inadequacies on offense, defense, special teams, and coaching, then good luck to you. I prefer to live in reality.