The Saskatchewan Roughriders don’t care what road they take, as long as it leads to the CFL playoffs.
The Roughriders (8-7) host the East-leading Montreal Alouettes (9-6) on Saturday, and can claim at least a cross-over playoff berth with a win or a Hamilton loss to Calgary.
A win would also improve Saskatchewan of locking down at least a third-place finish in the West, but rookie head coach Corey Chamblin has cautioned his players about getting distracted by pick-a-scenario mind games.
“It doesn’t matter how you get in the house, as long as you’re in the house,” he told reporters here Friday. “We have to make sure we finish the season.”
“We want to win every game we play,” added Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant. “That’s what you play the game for, to get yourself into position to play for the Grey Cup. It’s a long season, and it’s all about where you end up at the end of the season.”
Durant’s primary concern at the moment is Montreal’s defence. The Alouettes require special attention because they are the only team in the league that deploys a 3-4 formation (three linemen and four linebackers) and they blitz from every angle.
There is also the fact that Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo is capable of putting 40 points on the scoreboard on any given day, so Durant must be prepared to match him if necessary.
Calvillo has his concerns also, calling Saskatchewan’s defence “very active, overall very physical, and they’re playing well as a unit right now.”
He expects that his linemen will “have their hands full on Saturday, and like his head coach, he thinks the objective at this point to execute well consistently.
“We want to play better football,” said the 40-year-old veteran. “The challenge for every quarterback is to be consistent and to give his team a chance to win.”
The Alouettes have already locked up a playoff spot, but they can clinch first place in the East with a win. Like Chamblin, Trestman is telling his team not to think about possible playoff scenarios and just to focus on playing consistent football.
Since he joined the CFL coaching ranks five years ago, Trestman’s offensive strategy has been founded on protection for Calvillo in the pocket. Calvillo has responded by perfecting a quick release that makes pass protection easier for the Alouettes’ linemen.
Trestman is mindful of Saskatchewan’s offence, featuring a running game spearheaded by Kory Sheets, the strong arm and quick feet of Durant, and the big-play potential of receiver Weston Dressler.
He is also well aware that when the Alouettes defeated Saskatchewan 28-17 in Montreal in late September, Durant was sidelined with a hip injury and the Roughrider offence was in the hands of rookie quarterback Drew Willy, who has shown potential but lacks experience.
“No disrespect to Drew Willy,” Trestman said on Friday, “but I’ve watched Durant for five years and he is one of the elite players — not just elite quarterbacks, but elite players — in the league.”