The Saskatchewan Roughriders haven’t found any consistency whatsoever this season, as they sit 4-4 heading into a Week 10 showdown against the struggling Edmonton Elks (2-6).
There are several reasons behind the Roughriders’ roller-coaster start to the season. Among them: The play of one-time All-Star Cody Fajardo, who’s in his third season as the team’s main starter.
Fajardo has just nine touchdowns against six interceptions. He had just 18 completions (on 27 attempts) for 168 passing yards, one touchdown and one pick in the team’s Week 8 loss to the BC Lions.
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During appearances on the The Rod Pedersen Show (h/t 3DownNation), former Calgary Stampeders slotback Nik Lewis and former Roughriders running back Wes Cates discussed Fajardo’s struggles.
Specifically, Lewis discussed Fajardo’s “limited” skill set.
“I feel like Cody’s a really good leader, you see him communicate well with the guys and do those things, but his skill set is very limited,” the two-time Grey Cup Champion said. “When you get on a roll and things are connecting, the defense is creating turnovers, you’re having short fields, it doesn’t come into play that much. I believe in 2019 when he took over, the defense was playing lights out, there were a lot of short fields, things like that. I just never thought he was going to be the guy.”
Cates, a former CFL All-Star, believes that the underwhelming play of the Roughriders’ offensive line is affecting Fajardo’s decision making.
“He’s just always expecting a rush, always trying to escape the rush, even when there is no rush and it’s affecting his accuracy and just hitting guys on time,” Cates said. “He has constantly been late and behind on throws and I think guys are really working hard to get open for him but he’s just too scared of the protection that he’s getting from his o-line.”
Fortunately for the Roughriders, the well-documented struggles of the East Division clubs (other than the Toronto Argonauts) leave the door open for them to make the playoffs via the crossover path.
Even if they don’t gain ground on the Stampeders for the No. 3 seed in the month of August, Saskatchewan looks like a safe bet to have an easier direction to the Grey Cup. The Argonauts entered Week 10 as the only Eastern Division team with a winning record at 2-6.
Nathan Rourke Makes History In Blowout Win Over Elks
Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke has been one of the most pleasant surprises in recent CFL memory. The play of the 24-year-old has BC sitting comfortably in the playoff position, and they look poised to at least finish as the No. 2 seed in the West Division.
As noted by J.J. Adams of the Vancouver Province, Rourke had a record-setting night against the Elks on Saturday. Rourke tossed 477 passing yards, breaking his own single-game record by a Canadian-born QB.
Rourke previously set the mark against the Toronto Argonauts back on June 25. In that game, he had 436 passing yards, four touchdowns and a ridiculous 86.7 completion percentage en route to a 44-3 win.
Rourke had five TD passes against the rival Elks. He entered Week 10 as the leader in passing yards (2,418) and passing touchdowns (21).
BC has missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons (the 2020 campaign was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic). They also missed out in2017 and only qualified in 2018 thanks to the crossover rule with a 9-9 record.
But under Rourke’s leadership, BC is in tremendous position to garner a winning record as well as their first playoff berth in the West Division since 2016.
Predictions: Blue Bombers vs. Argonauts In Grey Cup
Without a doubt, the back-to-back Grey Cup-winning Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the team to beat for the Grey Cup this year.
Winnipeg has jumped off to a perfect 9-0 start, and it’s quite obvious that nobody is on their level. Even the surprise Lions were no match for the defending champions in a 43-22 blowout loss at home back in Week 5.
Amazingly, Winnipeg is 9-0 despite playing only three games at home. And they won’t play a team that currently boasts a winning record until Aug. 25 (at home vs. the Stampeders). Mike O’Shea’s squad has a superb +88 point differential that goes to show just how balanced they are on both sides of the ball. At this point, it’s just too difficult to pick against the Blue Bombers representing the West in the Grey Cup once again.
In the East, the Argonauts are just as safe a pick. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes entered this week with 2-6 records, and the Ottawa Redblacks are even worse at 1-7.
The first-round bye is essentially a lock for Toronto at this point. And even if Saskatchewan or Calgary wins the Division Semi-Finals showdown, the Argonauts would still have the benefit of home field advantage.
The Argos have their flaws, no doubt. But it’s very hard to see how any team in the East could possibly outlast them in the quest for a Grey Cup. And if the Eastern team were to beat the crossover club in the Division Semi-Finals? Toronto would be looking at a home game against a team with a losing record.
Add it all up, and a Winnipeg vs. Toronto Grey Cup showdown is a very strong bet to happen at this stage.