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Rob Vanstone: Saskatchewan Roughriders will defeat Calgary Stampeders on Sunday

Columnist Rob Vanstone explains why, in his assessment, the Saskatchewan Roughriders will defeat the visiting Calgary Stampeders on Sunday.

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Good news for the Saskatchewan Roughriders : This grizzled gargoyle of a columnist is convinced that they will defeat the Calgary Stampeders in Sunday’s West Division semi-final.

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Bad news for the Saskatchewan Roughriders: See preceding paragraph.

My predictions, you see, are infamously inaccurate.

Consider, for example, a football forecast that appeared in this cherished space as the 2021 CFL season loomed .

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were picked to be last in the West, with a 6-8 record. Winnipeg ended up at 11-3, which was good for first in the league’s overall standings.

Strike one.

The readership was assured that Saskatchewan would go 7-7 and finish fourth in the West. Uhhhh, make that 9-5, and second.

Strike two.

Projected to finish second were the Edmonton Elks, at 8-6. The rationale: “Trevor Harris plus Greg Ellingson plus Derel Walker plus Jaime Elizondo equals points, points, points.”

Make that fired, fired, fired.

On Monday, following a 3-11 season, the Elks cashiered the head coach (Elizondo), general manager (Brock Sunderland) and president (Chris Presson).

Harris? He was mercifully traded to the Montreal Alouettes on Oct. 17.

Striiiiiiike THREE!

Hold on. I predicted that Montreal would be 7-7. Montreal was, in fact, 7-7.

With that in mind, there is the chance that my latest pigskin prognostication may turn out to be prescient.

Proceeding along those lines, here is the rationale.

The Roughriders are not a dazzling team. Rarely are they an entertaining one. They have taken the concept of winning ugly to an extreme.

But — and this is a big BUT — winning is the bottom line in a results-based business.

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Saskatchewan won nine of the 13 meaningful games it played during the 2021 season. (Winnipeg, which was surely destined for last place, went 11-1 in games that mattered. Strike four?)

The Roughriders had appeared to be teetering after back-to-back losses to Calgary left them at 5-4.

Cue a four-game winning streak, which was ignited Oct. 23 when Saskatchewan prevailed 20-17 at McMahon Stadium.

The Roughriders, seldom easy on the eyes or the central nervous system, proceeded to win by margins of five, two and five points.

The team’s final four regular-season victories were all achieved in grind-it-out fashion — and isn’t that often the recipe for success in the playoffs?

Somehow, the resourceful Roughriders found a way to win even though the offensive line was porous, the running game was often a rumour, and the deep passing attack was virtually non-existent.

With Cody Fajardo at quarterback, the Roughriders are still able to make timely plays.

That might just be enough, because the Roughriders boast a championship-calibre defence and are solid on special teams.

The Fajardo factor is not to be discounted, either.

He is healthy for the playoffs, which wasn’t the case two years ago when the Roughriders last prepared for a post-season game.

The dual threat he presents could be especially important in a must-win game. The ultra-competitive Fajardo does possess the potential to will a team to victory. I would be shocked if he is not the Roughriders’ leading rusher on Sunday.

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Also worth considering: Location, location, location.

Good news for the Roughriders: They have home-field advantage!

Bad news for the Roughriders: They have lost their last two home playoff games.

The streak will not swell to three.

Roughriders 21, Stampeders 19.

You are not encouraged to bet the life savings on this outcome — unless, of course, you happen to be Donald J. Trump.

rvanstone@postmedia.com

twitter.com/robvanstone

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