Our panel breaks down the good and bad so far in CFL 2019

Rider Fan Forum | by Gregory Beatty

Four games into the season, the Labour Day Classic looked like a potential mismatch as the Bombers were undefeated and the Riders were 1W-3L. But a lot has changed since then. The Riders have caught fire, and the Bombers lost starting QB Matt Nichols to injury in mid-August.

To recap the CFL season to date, and look ahead to the second half, we’re joined by our Rider Fan Forum panel of Ivanka Trudeau, Cal Corduroy, Ron Mexico and Earl Camembert.

After Collaros went down in the season opener, you were pretty glum. Now that we’re at the halfway point, how do rate the Riders’ performance?

Ivanka Trudeau: The Riders have definitely exceeded my expectations. What a pleasant surprise Cody Fajardo has been! Without Collaros, I thought we’d have a very long season of having to rely solely on our defence.  We haven’t won against the top teams yet (Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg), but you can’t argue with being 6-3 and winning six of our last seven games.

Cal Corduroy: I don’t know how anyone can be anything but pleased with the season thus far… whudathunk? Having said that, there are caveats — the East reeks, plenty of teams are playing back-up QBs, and aside from the last Ottawa game (where I could’ve intercepted three passes), our defence isn’t generating enough turnovers.

Ron Mexico: I’d give them a B+. Fajardo has been better than Collaros would ever have been. I think remaining in the West in the playoffs is very realistic. I’m surprised the team hasn’t been entirely carried by the defence. The offence has carried its share of the load too. In addition, nobody seems to have gotten arrested and there doesn’t appear to be a circus going on.

Earl Camembert: I’m surprised. After Collaros got hurt, I lamented having to watch another season of screens, dump offs and three-yard passes. That hasn’t turned out to be the case. And the defence has been as solid as last year. They haven’t had as many turnovers, but they still aren’t giving up many points. Jon Ryan can really boot it.

The Year of the Return is the tagline pundits have hung on the season to date. But it’s also been the Year of the Injured QB. What’s your take on the year so far?

Ivanka Trudeau: This season hasn’t played out how most of us expected, that’s for sure. During the offseason, many were lamenting we didn’t get a top free agent QB. But it turned out well for us with Fajardo, and the signings haven’t turned out well for BC (with Mike Reilly on the turf so much), Calgary (with Bo Levi Mitchell being out), Ottawa (Jonathon Jennings) or Toronto (James Franklin).

Cal Corduroy: I wouldn’t break out the champagne quite yet. This year, any of six teams could win it all. The Riders have as decent a shot as the others. But they’re going to have to get more consistent performance from their offence — unfortunately, our offensive coordinator is terrible. Our defence has been pretty good, but has not instilled enough confidence that they have what it takes to win it all. Charleston Hughes is great.

Btw, I note this forum has become subdued lately… some interesting insights, but no insults. Let me remedy that. Hey Craig Dickenson, those headphones are a nice necklace. How about you put them over your ears and not miss a challenge opportunity that could’ve made a difference? DeVone Claybrooks — put your hat on straight, you look like an idiot. Jason Maas — shut up. BC has phoned me to play on its O-line.

Ron Mexico: I’m going to stir things up too and question whether local boy Jon Ryan has been as good as some want him to be. No question he has a powerful leg, but I don’t recall ever spending more time being choked that a punter boomed it through the end zone instead of dropping it inside the 10 yard line. Fans oooh and ahhh. But we’d be far better off with the returner fielding it inside the 10.

Earl Camembert: This is the Chinese year of the Pig, the last in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac signs. I don’t know what that has to do with your question, but I thought it was interesting. Oh, and too many guys get hurt in pro football.

How do you see the CFL’s second half playing out in the West?

Ivanka Trudeau: The West is going to be tight, as usual. So far, all the teams (except BC) have been winning almost all their games. But in the second half, they play each other more so something’s going to give. It will be interesting to see how Calgary plays when Mitchell is back.  I don’t think Winnipeg is as good as they think they are. I think it will be Edmonton, SK and Calgary battling for top spot (hopefully with us at least hosting the West semi-final) and Winnipeg getting the cross-over.

Cal Corduroy: Winnipeg will fade (as usual), BC will win a couple (as usual), hopefully the Riders will do something about that loudmouth with the mike on the sidelines during home games, and it will be a horse race for first place. It won’t be Winnipeg, but the remaining contenders (Edmonton, Calgary and SK) are all beatable. Riders get second place. In the East, Montreal and Hamilton will be mediocre, Ottawa and Toronto will be crappy.

Ron Mexico: I’m going to stir things up even more and say there’s no greater fallacy than Rider fans are the greatest in the world. They are the best fans in the CFL for sure, but don’t hold a candle to the fans of countless North American and European amateur and professional teams.

Earl Camembert: Now that cheater Andrew Harris is out for two games because of a failed drug test Winnipeg is in trouble. He’s their whole team. Calgary is only so-so this year. Edmonton is coached by that clown Jason Maas who will screw things up, and apparently Trevor Harris is a self-righteous knob so they’ll fold. I’ve picked BC five times in a football pool and lost every time. Plus, their coach looks stupid in a hat. That leaves the Riders in the conversation.

What about the East?

Ivanka Trudeau: Likewise, the East teams are starting to play each other more so someone is bound to win. I like what I’m seeing in Montreal and think Khari Jones has done a tremendous job since taking over as head coach. Hamilton will finish first though, followed by Montreal, with Toronto and Ottawa failing to make the play-offs.

Cal Corduroy: Ooops… read the question, Cal. Hamilton will be first, Montreal second — but neither wins the Cup.

Ron Mexico: It’s also a fallacy that Regina is a good “football” town. It’s a good “Rider” town. If it was a good football town the U of R Rams would draw equal or better than the Regina Pats. The Pats regularly put 4000 fans in the stands. The Rams cannot.

Earl Camembert: Who cares? Hamilton is the best. Toronto isn’t even part of Canada. I was in Montreal this summer and liked it. I was also in Ottawa and would’ve liked to have gone to a game there. Their stadium is in a real nice setting.

Labour Day Classic prediction?

Ivanka Trudeau: Riders win big over the Bombers. Let’s say 40-23.

Cal Corduroy: Now that Andrew Harris is out because of a failed drug test, the Riders only have to worry about a running QB (Chris Streveler — who can’t or won’t throw). Riders win at home and in the Banjo Bowl.

Ron Mexico: The Riders will win the Classic in a walk, then get kicked in the Banjo Bowl. It’s the way God has ordained it.

Earl Camembert: The Riders won a Labour Day Classic with Rocky Butler as QB. They will also win one with Cody Fajardo.