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August 4, 2017

Nye: Next five weeks will define Riders’ season

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

If the Riders want to be the best, they have to beat the best. Or is it, they have to beat the West.

Either works for Saskatchewan because over the last three years they haven’t been able to do either with just three victories over West Division opponents since midway through 2014.

The question that has taken over Saskatchewan has been if the team has turned the corner.

We can’t answer that question yet however we should be able to soon.

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Cameron Marshall rushed for over 100 yards last week against Toronto and will be looking to keep things rolling this week against BC (The Canadian Press)

As good as they looked last week against the Toronto Argonauts, beating East Division opponents won’t help the Riders climb the standings in the tough West Division.

It wasn’t that long ago the fan base was getting excited about a dominant win over Hamilton in Week 3. The next week, the team got beat quite soundly by Calgary.

Nobody is quite sure who this team is.

So you start to see why there are doubters if the Roughriders can get over the hump and compete against Western opponents.

They need to start making ground sooner rather than later. Actually, to clarify they must start making ground now because there won’t be a later.

The Roughriders next five games are as follows; @ BC, vs BC, @ Edmonton, vs Winnipeg, @ Winnipeg.

In the standings the Roughriders are again in fifth, looking up. Losses over the next stretch will dig their hole even further.

Edmonton and Calgary don’t appear to be slowing down at the top of the standings so realistically, the Riders will have to get past at least BC or Winnipeg to make the playoffs as once again the crossover to the East is in play.

Fifth is likely the only team in the West this year that won’t make the playoffs. Fifth is also a place the Roughriders are tired of being after two straight years in the basement.

Here are a few of the things the Riders need to prove over this stretch of games.

Kevin Glenn has to show he can compete with West Division counterparts Bo Levi Mitchell, Mike Reilly, Matt Nichols and Jonathon Jennings/Travis Lulay.

If you polled CFL insiders over which quarterback people would have, Glenn may be fifth or sixth on that list.

Glenn is third in the league in touchdown passes with 11 just behind Bo Levi Mitchell and Trevor Harris (The Canadian Press)

So far Glenn has been good for the Riders. Last week he threw four touchdowns and no interceptions against Ricky Ray, so Glenn is showing indeed he can still sling it with the best of them but he’ll have to turn it up even more to get wins.

The Riders also could help out Glenn with a continued balanced attack to slow down the pass rush.

Against Toronto, Cameron Marshall ran for the century mark for the first time this season.

On the flip side, the Roughriders front seven will be challenged with Jeremiah Johnson and Andrew Harris in four of the next five weeks. With Jerome Messam going for over 100-yards against this defence two weeks ago, the Riders could ill afford to have a setback.

Oh and then there are the road trips. The Riders haven’t won a road trip in their own division since September of 2014 against Winnipeg.

Am I saying their season is on the line over the next five games?

Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying.

You can’t ignore the reality of this stretch of games. If the Riders win three or more over their next five they enter the back half of the season with a .500 record or better and they are very much in the conversation.

If the Riders can only come out of this with two wins, they will need to win five or six of their last eight games.

Anything lower than that, miracles will need to happen.

The Riders could do themselves a lot of favours with a win over BC this week. A win at BC Place would check off a lot of the boxes to confirm that the Riders may finally be out of the darkness of the basement and ready to contend.