Edmonton vs Riders Sept 27As poorly as the Riders have played since Darian Durant went down (a 1W-4L record, while being outscored 92-12 in three road games) they still have a shot at second in the CFL West which would entitle them to host the West semi-final on Nov. 16.

To do that they have to win today, then beat Edmonton again when the two teams close out the season at Mosaic Stadium on Nov. 8. That would give them the season series against Edmonton, and enough points to finish second regardless of how the Riders and Esks do in their other remaining game (the Riders are in Calgary Oct. 24, while Edmonton hosts B.C. Nov. 1.)

Currently rehabbing his elbow injury, Durant is expected to come off the six-game injury list in time for the Calgary game. I wouldn’t expect him to play in that tilt (let’s face it, there’s only one game left to be played in Calgary this year that matters, and that’s the West final Nov. 23). But after that game, the Riders have a bye (much needed, as they haven’t had a break since mid-July) which would give the Rider QB an extra week to get ready for the season finale against Edmonton.

For that game to have any meaning in the race for second, though, the Riders have to win today. If Edmonton wins, they will pretty much sew up second and host the West-semi-final. That would be bad news for the Riders, as outside of the odd game (the 1989 West final, cough, the 1997 West final, cough) Commonwealth Stadium has been Death Valley for the Riders come playoff time.

Mind you, that’s assuming the Riders finish third. Right now, B.C.’s only two points behind the Green & White. Should the teams finished tied, the Lions hold the tie-breaker, and they do have a game in Winnipeg against the slumping Bombers on Oct. 25 that could pull them into a tie if the Riders don’t manage a win in their final three games.

If that were to happen, the Riders would finish fourth and crossover to play in the East semi-final against whoever finishes second between Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal. Then if they were to win that game, they’d play the first-place finisher in the East final with a Grey Cup berth at stake.

Since the crossover was instituted in 1997, no West team has swept the two games and represented the East in the Grey Cup so it’s obviously not easy to do. First off, you have to deal with the travel and early start times. As well, despite the generally weaker quality of play in the East, there’s usually at least one team each year that qualifies as a legit CFL power. This year, though, for a variety of reasons — injuries, stadium issues, young QB prospects still gaining experience — that’s not necessarily the case. So out of all the seasons the crossover’s been around, this might be the one year when a West victory is possible.

For the Riders, the preferred playoff route, I’m sure, would see them host (and win) the West semi-final, then travel to Calgary to play a beat-up Stampeder team in the West final. But crossing over to the East isn’t a bad second choice, and likely preferable to a semi-final date in Edmonton against the Esks.

Regardless of what scenario unfolds, the Riders obviously need a healthy Durant to have a shot. As to whether the team has a shot today, Kerry Joseph is apparently starting at QB. In past games, when Tino Sunseri has come off the bench he’s shown more than he has as a starter, so it might be a case where Joseph will do what he can to establish some rhythm on offence and then perhaps Sunseri will sub in against a tough Edmonton defence. In their previous meeting on Sept. 26 (a 24-0 Eskimo victory, game photo above), Edmonton rushed for over 300 yards. Hopefully, the Rider defence will perform better today, although without stronger play out of the offence it’s tough to win the field position and time of possession battle and the defence inevitably gets worn down as the game progresses.

Game time is 2 p.m. TSN has the broadcast, and you can find out more on the Riderville website.