For the Roughriders, the first 11 games were about setting the pace and not falling behind the eight ball. Only four games of their first 11 were against West Division teams, while six of their last seven see the Riders take on their Western foes Calgary (once), Edmonton (twice) and B.C. (three times).
Actually, today will be the first time the Lions and Riders do battle this season. Overshadowing Geroy Simon’s first game against the Leos since the off-season trade, is the fact the Riders are heading in with a two game losing streak and plenty of adversity.
Will the real Saskatchewan Roughriders please stand up?
Who this team is a question that will take seven weeks to find out.
Head Coach Corey Chamblin has been able to dodge questions that are based on the notion his team is struggling.
"Over the last five games, your team is 3-2...."
"We’re still a winning team," Chamblin would respond.
However, should the Riders come out on the wrong side of the score come Sunday, Chamblin concedes that his winning team will actually be a .500 club throughout the second third of the season.
Not that it’s time to push the panic button but the bloom is off the rose for the Green and White.
The unbeatable are now beatable.
The record books appear to be safe.
The dream season appears to be slipping away.
The Riders know they can still tighten their grip on that dream season, though. Ricky Foley was on a team that lost five of six games in September and October before a dream run to the Cup last year.
Simon was on a team in 2011 that won just once before Labour Day before finding themselves ride a wave to their championship.
It’s been said all season why players like Foley and Simon were added. They know the most important thing is keeping your head about you and knowing a season that appears to be going south fast can turn around just as quickly.
Simon noted this week that his honeymoon period in Saskatchewan is over. The intensity is amping up and it’s time he starts showing the urgency needed to help push this team out of their slump.
And there is no better time then this game against his old team.
Is Simon happy he’s caught just 24 passes in his first eight games with the Riders? No.
And he’s starting to show the emotion on the field. But he warns to not confuse his intensity with frustration.
The Riders need to feel a sense of urgency after things seemingly went so easy in the first five games of the season. The reason they were 5-0 was their urgency early in the season that has disappeared or at least diminished over the last month.
Chamblin has talked about his team going through a ‘correction period’ in the second third of the season but that correction period needs to end Sunday.
If they need much more correcting, the Stamps and Lions will start pulling away and put the Riders in the precarious position of having to win two road games in the playoffs to make the Grey Cup.
After their latest loss, Foley stressed how badly this team needs a win.
While it seems strange to think this game is a ‘must win’ game for the Roughriders, the implications of a loss give it that feel.
Not only will they be on a three game losing streak, piling on more adversity, but also give the Lions the edge to the race for a home playoff game and put them even further behind the Stamps for a possible first place battle later in October.
While the result of this game won’t give us the full answer on who the real Riders are, it may be foreshadowing.
Jamie Nye bleeds green and is the Roughrider insider for News Talk 980 CJME Regina and News Talk 650 CKOM Saskatoon. All of his Rider coverage can be found at www.GreenZoneFootball.com and you can follow him on Twitter @JamieNye.