Heading into Saturday's late game between the B.C. Lions and the Saskatchewan Roughriders (10 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPN3), it's hard not to feel that the stakes are somewhat different for each side. Yes, obviously the Lions would like to win, further improve on their CFL-best 9-3 record and bring their lead over the Calgary Stampeders back to two games. For the Roughriders, though, there would seem to be a lot more desperation involved. Saskatchewan is 6-6 on the year and is just one win ahead of Edmonton for the final West Division playoff spot. A victory before the Riders' home crowd would restore some faith in this team and put them in much better position for a solid stretch run, while a loss would put even just a playoff appearance very much back in question.
Can Saskatchewan pull it off? Well, in most statistical areas, they don't seem to quite stack up to the Lions. There are elements in their favour, though; a key part of B.C.'s effectiveness has been thanks to Andrew Harris' ground-game triumphs, but the Riders were tied with the Lions for the least rushing first downs in the league heading into this week's action, and they were second to only B.C. in rushing yards allowed per game. There are reasons to think they may be able to keep the Lions' league-leading ground attack (132.2 yards per game) somewhat in check. Of course, the B.C. offence can move the ball through the air, too, but they haven't been quite as dominant there, putting up the fourth-highest net passing yards per game in the league before this week. Travis Lulay and his receiving corps can still be very dangerous, but the always-fervent Rider crowd could pose some challenges for them, and if Saskatchewan can limit the run game's effectiveness, the Riders may be able to contain the Lions' offence.
It's the other side of the ball that's more worrying for Rider fans though. Their own offence has primarily come on the ground, with star tailback Kory Sheets collecting 819 yards (second-best in the league) to date and the team hauling in 1385 rushing yards (third-best in the league). Against most teams, that would bode well; against the Lions' ferocious run defence, which has allowed a league-low 69.9 rushing yards per game and a best-in-the-league average of just 4.7 yards per opposing carry, it may not be enough.
Don't expect miraculous success through the air, either. Although Darian Durant looked pretty solid in last week's win over Calgary, his numbers aren't great on the year (2,556 passing yards, a 63.2 per cent completion rate, 12 touchdowns against eight interceptions), and the Lions' passing defence has allowed a league-low 7.2 yards per pass, the least passing yards per game (235.3) and the least passing first downs (123). There's a lot on the line for Saskatchewan, and anything can happen in the CFL, so the Riders certainly could come away with a victory. They'll need their own offence to improve and they'll need B.C.'s defence to take a step back if they're to have a chance, though.