I am reputed to be a Rider fan, but I have a little bad news to deliver to the Green People this year: I do not believe the Saskatchewan Roughriders are destined to be the home team in this year’s Grey Cup.
I believe the CFL West will be a shootout again this year, but the biggest gunslingers will be on other West Division teams in 2013.
Once again I will caution that my predictions are based upon healthy starters and football is a decidedly unhealthy way to earn a living.
My choice for number one in the CFL West is a familiar name because the BC Lions are once again my early favorites to finish in first place this year. The Lions have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Canadian receivers and American linebackers-plus they have star quarterback Travis Lulay to lead them to the frozen promised land in Regina for the 2013 Grey Cup. BC is a well-balanced squad with a lot of explaining to do about last year’s playoff loss to Calgary and there are few creatures more dangerous than hungry lions.
Number two spot in the West will also be occupied by a familiar tenant: the Calgary Stampeders. The Stamps are coached and managed by one of the best in the business with John Hufnagel. His teams are a blend of proven talent and unexpected stars recruited in the off-season through free agency or good scouting.
The designated quarterback starter in Calgary is Drew Tate, but Tate’s hold on the reins is subject to his performance on the field. Hufnagel is not exactly a sentimental guy because he knows that his own job is also performance driven, so he would not hesitate to yank Tate and throw in journeyman Kevin Glenn as his quarterback. Glenn is a great safety net and talented third string pivot Bo Levi Mitchell will also factor into the equation this year.
Mitchell may even cultivate a quarterback controversy in Cowtown by the end of the year because he will be a starter somewhere in 2014-possibly in Ottawa.
One of the smartest moves of the off-season was made by Eskimo GM Ed Hervey because he managed to acquire quarterback Mike Reilly from the BC Lions organization. Reilly is an intelligent and talented pivot who deserves to be a starter in this league and that job was unavailable in BC.
Last year the Eskimos had an open audition between coach killer quarterbacks Stephen Jyles and Kerry Joseph during which both proved why they should pursue jobs other than football.
Joseph is back to provide a veteran backup quarterback presence for Reilly and Eskimo fans should consider the idea of human sacrifice to the football gods to prevent any scenario where Joseph comes into the game as their starter.
The Eskimos were stone-cold killers with their defensive front seven in 2012 and they will be even better this year with the return of people like now-healthy giant tackle Canadian Ted Laurent to the lineup. Add it all up and I pick Edmonton to be a better team because they have a legitimate quarterback guiding their fortunes.
There is always hope and promise before every season in Saskatchewan. This plucky optimism is a foundation for the football dreams of every Rider fan, but I do have serious misgivings about quarterback Darian Durant once again this year. I suspect he is now the fourth best starter in the West Division.
I do not believe Durant is consistent enough to be a star in the CFL and he is now a 31 year old quarterback who can no longer ride the “potential” train. Durant still has big problems with his reads and accuracy, so I pick the Riders for last place in the West.
The team will be much improved on defense but Durant will hold them back from a legitimate championship run. My beliefs about Durant will not make me popular with Rider fans, but I believe that long droughts between real Rider quarterback stars like Lancaster, Austin and briefly Henry Burris have brought an aura of desperation to Rider Nation. See you next week.