Saskatchewan Roughriders Look to Go 4-2 or Better in First Third of 08'

Kelly BundleAnalyst IJuly 11, 2008

In 2007, the Saskatchewan Roughriders had a great first third of the season, posting a 4-2 record over the first six games.  That record included losses to BC and Edmonton, the very two teams the Riders drew early in '08.  If you are orange or green and gold at heart, the pesky Riders are 2-0.  

Despite my general fear of being horribly wrong, with Hamilton, Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary next respectively, I am starting to entertain the idea that the Riders could improve on their '07 first third.  

Just like the Riders will need to, I'm going to take this one game at a time.  

First, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.  The 'Cats are a much improved ball club from last year.  The new head coach, Charlie Taffe, has brought excitement and, more importantly, confidence and direction to the young and talented roster.

The Cats sit at 1-1 after a home-field loss to the Montreal Alouettes in week one and a road victory over the Toronto Argos.  

For skeptics, Hamilton has left doubts and points on the field by the end of each contest.  The 'Cats have 42 points for and 46 against, while the Riders have 60 points for and only 29 against.

Have the 'Cats really turned the corner yet?  Personally, I don't think so.  Despite the lack of the all-important 13th man, Riders win, 3-0.

Second up, in week four, the improved Montreal Alouettes?

I thought Montreal had a pretty decent year in '07.  With wins over division rivals Toronto and Hamilton, and wins against supposed Western juggernauts BC and Calgary, Montreal quietly played their way into the playoffs.

In the '07 East semifinals they would have knocked off the eventual Grey Cup finalist Winnipeg Blue Bombers if not for a since relieved Jim Paup and his coaching miscalculations. Under any circumstances, the Als are a tough club to beat at home in Percival Molson Stadium.  

This game will shake down at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, a building where the Alouettes have not won since 2005.  Coaches and players well prepared, 13th man roaring, another Rider victory, 4-0. 

Third, in week five action, the Argos and '07 season MOP Kerry Joseph visit the warm confines of Mosaic Stadium.

A much deserved thank you for Joseph will likely be followed by some razzing and verbal harassment as he is no longer on the home side of the field.  Or might he be back in green?  Or might his partner Michael Bishop?

You see, that's the issue today in Argoville, a day after taking one on the chin at the hands of the Edmonton Eskimos.  Who really is the number one QB?  One could only speculate about who it will be for this July 27 battle.

The Argos were widely labeled the league's best defense last year, and at the start of this year.  After three games in '08 they have given up a league worst 31.66 points per game.

So much for that theory.  It may be easier to understand why when informed that Kavis Read took over the defensive play calling for new head coach and defensive wizard Rich Stubler in the offseason.  Call me crazy, Riders win big, 5-0.

In week six the Riders take their show on the road to Calgary's McMahon Stadium.  In their last 12 contests dating back to 2005, each of these teams has won six times.  But the Stamps have, when it mattered most, lost two consecutive semifinal playoff games to the Green Machine.  

Calgary's new hope is that rookie CFL head coach John Hufnagel can get them over that hump.  Despite about 95 percent continuity from '07, things look fresh and new in Cowtown and I, for one, don't doubt that they have improved as a team.

Have the Riders?  As individuals, not really.  As a team, yes.  It's called championship swagger, and it'll be here all year.  As Calgary is our home away from home, I'm taking the Riders in a close one.  6-0.

Yes, even with all the changes and some doubt at QB, I believe the Riders will ace the first third of the CFL '08 season.  There is no doubt in my mind that going into the back half of the home and home series with the Stamps, the Riders will be AT LEAST 5-1.