Well, here we go.
After a tumultuous regular season for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the playoffs are finally here. The Riders will host the B.C. Lions in the 2013 CFL Western Semifinal Sunday at 3:30 pm in a battle of 11-7 teams.
What a road it was to get here! And really, the regular season was only batting practice, a warm-up, for the main event but it was scrutinized endlessly along the way. Agonizingly scrutinized.
You can't really blame people around here for being skeptical about their team. The Riders aren't exactly on a roll heading into the postseason having gone 3-6 in the final half of the season, and are carrying a two-game losing streak into the tournament. Maybe that's why there were as many as 15,000 tickets left for the playoff game as of this past Sunday.
"It's a brand new season,'' Rider head coach Corey Chamblin said defiantly following Saturday's 30-26 last-minute loss to Edmonton, a game in which the Riders rested top guns Darian Durant and Kory Sheets.
Of course Chamblin's right, and it would be a disservice for anyone to look back now. Should the Riders have had more wins in 2013? Possibly. In fact probably. But no one was going to touch the 14-4 Calgary Stampeders anyways, and now the Stamps sit at home with the luxury of a first-round bye and await a visit from either the Riders or Lions in the West Division Final.
No, it's all about looking ahead right now for the Saskatchewan Roughriders but not too far ahead. A showdown in Cowtown in two weeks is a tantalizing match-up for the Green & White but they have a stubborn B.C. squad standing in the way who, judging by their record, are every bit as good as the Riders. They're just a lot younger.
The only question mark for the Roughriders as we sit on the cusp of the playoffs is the status of slotback Chris Getzlaf who led the club in receiving in 2013 with 1045 yards. Getzlaf missed Game 18 with a knee injury and we're told his status is 50/50 for the playoffs. That's huge but if necessary, the Riders still have the under-utilized Geroy Simon and Rob Bagg at their disposal. Wouldn't it be something if Geroy torched his former team in the playoffs just like Jason Clermont did in double overtime of the 2010 Western Semifinal in Regina?
Things are setting up nicely for the scenario we foreshadowed way back in the spring.
However Lions coach Mike Benevides has a trick or two up his sleeve as well, not the least of which is who his starting quarterback will be in the playoffs. All three of Travis Lulay, Buck Pierce and Thomas DeMarco played in the Lions' regular-season ending 26-7 win over Calgary Friday night and Benevides said they now have "data" on each of them. But who's kidding who? It will be a hunch, not data, which determines who's behind centre for the Lions come Sunday at the Mosaic Madhouse.
"I think with BC their whole offense is designed around Lulay," said Rider linebacker Craig Butler. "We've seen the other two guys this year, but not Lulay. Our defense will prepare for their offense. Whoever's in at quarterback shouldn't matter for us. We know what Lulay can do. He's a Grey Cup champion and knows how to play this time of year. But for our defense, we just have to do our job."
True. But it's not the Rider defense which is answering questions right now. It's the offense and everyone's waiting to see if coordinator George Cortez has a few tricks of his own come kickoff time in the playoffs.
Oh the intrigue!
See you Sunday.
(For daily Rider news follow Rod on Twitter at @sportscage)