Redblacks-Roughriders Preview

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A pair of undefeated teams are set to square off in the CFL’s Week 3 finale.

Yet that game’s betting line is the most lop-sided of the week, featuring a 10 1/2-point favorite.

The Ottawa Redblacks appeared to have earned very little respect from their 1-0 start but could turn some heads with a win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday night.

Ottawa finished the 2019 season 3-15 despite a 2-0 start, losing 11 straight to close the year.

That vintage of the Redblacks had a league-worst defense that allowed over 31 points per game. After opening this season with a 16-12 win in Edmonton, however, Ottawa’s defense appears to be much improved, and the team is coming off a bye week.

The odds-makers are not bullish on their chances.

The CFL’s official website slated Ottawa last in its weekly team rankings, below a pair of winless teams in the Calgary Stampeders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Even Saskatchewan head coach Craig Dickenson was puzzled by the rankings and knows that his Roughriders will face a highly motivated team on Saturday.

“I’m sure that’s ammo,” Dickenson said. “Guys don’t like it when you doubt them and, they want to prove you wrong. I’m sure they’re going to come out blazing and come out with a lot to prove.

“Hopefully our guys feel the same way, that we’ve got work to do.”

Ottawa’s critics would point to the team’s dismal offensive performance in Week 1, winning despite allowing five sacks and totaling just 94 yards.

Dickenson is preparing for a better showing from the Redblacks.

“Matt Nichols is a good quarterback. They’ve got some good people on that team, and they’re 1-0. … We expect a tough game from Ottawa. They haven’t lost a game – they’re undefeated – just like we are.”

Meanwhile, the Riders are off to as good of a start as anyone in the CFL, sitting at 2-0 and coming off a 30-8 rout of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats behind a defense that came away with six sacks and two interceptions.

“The main thing I like about our defense right now is that we’re playing hard,” Dickenson said. “I think we’re playing hard and getting to the football. We’re not playing perfect, for sure, and we’ve got to sure things up. But I think we made improvements from Game 1 to Game 2, and we’re hoping we see the same sort of improvement from Game 2 to Game 3.”

If there is any concern for the Roughriders, it falls on the offense, which will be without 2019 receiving leader Shaq Evans for the next six to eight weeks due to an ankle injury.

Paul McRoberts Jr. will take Evans’ place on the roster, but only time will tell if missing a key piece will derail the efficient start by quarterback Cody Fajardo.

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