Jon Cornish will look to lead the Stamps over the Riders Sunday.Continuing on with our Playoff Preview series, here's a look at the Saskatchewan Roughriders' clash against the Calgary Stampeders (4:30 p.m. Eastern, live on TSN, tape-delayed at 11 p.m. Eastern on NBC Sports Network in the U.S.). Our live chat for the game is here.
What stands out about this one is the weather. It was -13 Celsius in Calgary Sunday morning, but warmed up to -3 by noon (although with a windchill that still felt like -9, though). That's a significant difference, and a lot may depend on just how cold things are by game time. The colder the game, the more both teams will have to emphasize the run. They've got ground stars anyway, so expect the run to feature regardless of weather, but a cold game may put extra emphasis there. Who has the edge? Let's get to the matchups.
Calgary offence: Four full moons.
The Stamps' offence has done well this season, especially on the ground. Jon Cornish led the league in rushing, becoming the first Canadian to do so since Orville Lee, and he broke Normie Kwong's Canadian rushing record. There's a little more uncertainty in the passing game; Drew Tate will get the start, and he would seem to have higher upside than Kevin Glenn, but hasn't played much this year thanks to injury. However, he has a good cast of receivers to work with, including Nik Lewis and Maurice Price.
Calgary defence: Three top linebackers.
There are great playmakers here, including Keon Raymond and Juwan Simpson, but the defence as a whole has been middle of the road in most categories, including total yards (fourth), rushing yards (fourth) and passing yards (fourth). They're third-best in the league in points allowed though.
Calgary special teams: Four dual-job holding punters.
The combination of punter Rob Maver and kicker Rene Paredes has been great all season. Larry Taylor has been more hit-and-miss in the return game, though, and the cover teams have had some low moments.
Saskatchewan offence: Three closed practices.
The ground game's been solid with Kory Sheets, but the passing game hasn't looked consistently great. Darian Durant has held on to the starting job, but hasn't performed the way he did in 2009 and 2010, and the receiving corps hasn't shone outside of Weston Dressler and Chris Getzlaf.
Saskatchewan defence: Five new stadiums.
The Riders' defence has been their biggest asset this year. They're second in the league in points allowed (22.2 per game), and have been great against the run (97.6 yards per game, third-best) and the pass (255.0 yards per game, second-best in the CFL). A good defensive performance, especially against Cornish, would be critical to a victory for them.
Saskatchewan special teams: Two bartending punters.
Sandro DeAngelis has been okay in the kicking game, but far from exceptional, posting a 76.9 per cent success rate on field goals. Punter Ricky Schmitt is relatively untested, and the Riders haven't found a good returner.
Add them up: 11 points for Calgary, 10 for Saskatchewan.
X-Factor: The aforementioned weather. Both teams can run, but Calgary's better at passing, and Saskatchewan's better at stopping the run. A really cold game may favour the Riders.
Prediction: Don't count the Riders out, especially given their past success in Calgary, but the Stamps look like the better team. I see them taking a narrow one.
Calgary 24, Saskatchewan 21.