Its the coldest March 11 in history so what better thing to do than talk Saskatchewan Roughrider football. I was talking to someone in Edmonton on the weekend about the upcoming season and how competitive it should be in the Western Division. You could make an argument for the Riders finishing first in the West and you could make an argument for them finishing last in the division. Who's kidding who, I don't think there is a lot separating the four teams in the West and the final standings will be determined by divisional games in 2009. Calgary would have to be the odds-on favourite to finish first again because they virtually are the same team that won the Grey Cup last year but how much of a hangover will they have. Add to that what will happen when the team hits a rough stretch because of their cockiness. They have the ability to repeat, but they also have the ability to implode.
I think Edmonton takes a step up and BC will take a step back which leaves the Riders. I don't think they have as many question marks going into this season as they did last but there are questions ---especially on defence where the team will have to make up for the loss of Mo Lloyd, Anton McKenzie and defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall. The pressure will be on Gary Etcheverry to try and duplicate what Hall and company have done on the defensive side of the football over the past few years. On the offensive side of the ball, I don't think we really saw what they could do in 08 because of all the injuries and the inconsistency at the quarterback position. If receivers can remain healthy, if Wes Cates can be the Wes Cates we have seen since he started wearing Rider green and if Darian Durant can progress the way I think he will, there is no reason to think this team will be right in the mix. I can see another 11 or 12 win season but some breaks will be needed(and the football gods owe them some after 2008). If the ball doesn't bounce the right way, they could win only 7 or 8 times. I don't think this team will sink back any and if they can stay healthy, I think Ken Miller will prove last season was no fluke. Are they good enough to finish first, yes they are. However to do that, they will have to be on the top of their game right from Week 1 of the season because nothing will come easy this year.
As I look outside, I just have to ask this question. Is the 2009 season still almost three months away??? What are your thoughts? With the team sitting where its at today, can they finish first or do you think as good as they are that they will be outclassed by their Western rivals??