The questions are fair. Just because a team is 5-0, with the most productive offense in the league, and that same team boasts the stingiest defense in league, that doesn't mean they can't and won't be beaten by a better team on any given day.
Calgary has a very talent-laden lineup that is all to eager to beat the Green Machine led by former Rider QB Henry Burris.
It's no secret that the Riders have accumulated many injuries of late, mostly of a severe nature and to an impact player. On both sides of the ball, players have been injured, starting in Week One with OT Wayne Smith to last week with Andy Fantuz.
Many players have also been sidelined with bumps, bruises, and personal issues like James Johnson. Johnson, the 2007 Grey Cup MVP, had a minor concussion in the second quarter of the home tilt with Toronto and may not be available this week.
The Riders and Johnson will make that decision after a week-long evaluation process.
Marcus "Chunky" Adams missed his second straight start against the Argos as he dealt with some off field issues.
Add to that list DB Leron Mitchell, QB Darian Durant, QB Marcus Crandell, SB DJ Flick, SB Weston Dressler, SB Dave McKoy, WR Mike Washington, and DE John Chick.
The list is growing every game but the Riders have yet to let it slow them down. Thanks to great scouting and player personnel departments, GM Eric Tillman has more than filled the positions.
The Rider players know that Ken Miller means business. They showed that by coming into camp in peak performance shape, under his and former coach Kent Austin's off-season orders. Miller expects any of his players on the field to play like starters and stars when they are given the opportunity and it shows that through study, workouts, practices, and games, the depth players have bought into that concept.
So the questions are:
Can the Riders go into McMahon stadium and come out alive in the race for an undefeated season?
And can they then come home, perhaps with more injuries, and repeat the same feat in consecutive weeks of action against the Stamps?
The answer for me to both questions is yes, and here is how:
Wes Cates needs to keep being the best tailback in the league through both weeks—a feat he looks forward to, having been a member of the Stampeder organization in the past.
Perennial all-star Matt Dominguez must have a whopper of an evening in both contests. He has yet to find his form in 2008 with an injury early and the carousel of QB's he has had to work with.
The Riders must win the field position battle even if it means giving up a few points.
The Rider defense must contain the Calgary rushing attack of Burris and Reynolds, which can be a juggernaut to the defense late in games, when the potential is realized.
The Rider defense must bend but not break pretty much all game and make Sandro DeAngelis beat them.
The Riders must also continue to play every play seperately, avoiding mental breakdowns, protecting the ball, and giving the defense ample rest with sustained offense.
The 13th man must show up, as always at McMahon, in 50% or better-like numbers to cheer boisterously and rattle the Stampeder offense.
Calgary's coaches should not likely be able to coach their players to match the intensity, focus, and execution of this championship team and it's coaches.
That's how I see it. Anyone?