Instead of taking flight, the Birds of Prey are riding the Via rails in search of their sixth win.
In yet another quirky development that can only befall the Canadian Football League, the Montreal Alouettes invade Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton to take on the Toronto Argonauts. That’s right, Montreal is playing a road game and in an abstract way, so is the home team. You can blame (or thank, your mileage may vary) the success of the Toronto Blue Jays for this change in venue.
Until the end of the 2015 football season, both the Argos and Blue Jays share the same stadium. But since Rogers Communications owns both the Blue Jays and the Skydome, they pretty well dictate when anyone else can use the stadium. Even though the CFL schedule was set back in the spring, the Blue Jays get top priority for any and all events.
This normally doesn’t present a conflict, as the Jays in recent years have been out of contention for the World Series by the middle of August. However, in this final year that the Argos will be sharing the Skydome, the Blue Jays decided to play well enough to qualify for the MLB postseason and throw several wrenches into the plans of the Argonauts.
This has led to Argos home games being rescheduled at different stadiums. Not different stadiums in Toronto, but in different cities altogether! The month of October alone has seen three Argo home games relocated; one to TD Place in Ottawa to face the RedBlacks and now two to Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field. The first was last Saturday versus the Stampeders and now tomorrow’s game with the Alouettes.
Disregard that each time the game was moved, the Skydome ended up not being used for a baseball game or for ANY event. The Rogers Corporation has a myriad of excuses as to why they couldn’t allow the Argonauts to play their scheduled games and as landlord, they don’t have to answer to anyone but themselves. It’s not very accommodating and likely unfair, but that’s the way the cookie crumbled this season for both of these Toronto-based franchises.
There won’t be any decisive home field advantage for either club, as the stands won’t be filled to the brim; I almost expect to see as many fans for the Double Blue in attendance as I would see Alouettes fans! Last Saturday’s ersatz game featured a mere 3,401 fans in attendance and quite frankly, I would be stunned to see as many there tomorrow night.
Not helping the cause is that the Blue Jays will be fighting elimination tomorrow night, so most of Toronto’s sports fans will be focused on that instead of watching their football team battle in hopes of hosting a playoff game in the 416 area code. This nightmare is almost over, Argos fans. By this time next year you’ll be safe and snug in BMO Field, playing in front of much better crowds.
Despite failing to cash in on multiple opportunities, the Montreal Alouettes are still very much in contention for that Western crossover playoff spot. Now that he has been an Alouette for over a week, Kevin Glenn should have a much better feel for this team and they in turn should be 100% ready to play for him.
Little nuances like cadence and snap counts take more than a couple of practice sessions to figure out and it’s the hopes of Alouettes Nation that now everyone on offense is on the same page. Glenn will have to face a defense that is extremely capable of causing turnovers and forcing two and outs. As a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, he’s faced this Argo team twice and in both games, kept it very competitive.
But Glenn and his talented receivers have to find the end zone early and stop waiting until they are down by 10 with :45 to go in the fourth quarter. With a crowd that will better mimic a pre-season game or a scrimmage, the Alouettes won’t have to worry about noise being a factor. Conversely, neither will the Argos.
During their last tilt, Argos QB Trevor Harris turned it on in the fourth quarter and was able to capitalize on several Alouettes mistakes. He’ll also want to have a better showing than he did versus Calgary, where he only completed 59% of his passes and was picked off three times. Harris does have his numerous weapons at his disposal including Tori Gurley and Brandon Whitaker, who both played well against the Alouettes two weeks ago.
Montreal won’t have Aaron Lavarias in the lineup as the injury-prone defensive end suffered yet another setback versus Hamilton. But you will be seeing more of Brian Brikowski, who will be looking to re-establish himself along this vaunted Montreal D-Line. His game play last year was compared to one J.J. Watt by Alouettes defensive coach Anwar Stewart and nobody who supports the Alouettes would complain if Brikowski were to play the game in the same fashion as the NFL’s 2014 Defensive Player of the Year.
Also out of the lineup for Montreal is Kyries Hebert, who left last Sunday’s game and is being kept out for concussion protocol. So expect to see more of Nicolas Boulay slotting in at weak-side linebacker with Chip Cox, who will be lining up with Henoc Muamba and Winston Venable.
Offensively, these receivers need to get and stay open. Nik Lewis has been an absolute rock in this receiving corps. He rarely drops passes and when he gets rumbling downfield, he’s nearly impossible to take down. S.J. Green hasn’t exactly had the dream season many have been expecting from him but he’s still a mere 42 yards away from yet another 1000 yard season and is always considered a threat to any secondary.
Now that Solomon Junior has had a chance to experience Kevin Glenn up close, these two could very well connect in a spectacular way tomorrow night!
It’s interesting to note that of the two teams that will be playing at Tim Hortons Field tomorrow, only one of them has posted a win there. Toronto has yet to taste victory in this particular barn and not even playing a team that isn’t the Tiger-Cats has made any difference. Could this omen work in favour of the Alouettes tomorrow night, who became the first road team to post a victory at Tim Hortons Field earlier this season?
Both teams still have so much to play for. Toronto has punched their ticket into the 2015 playoffs and all the Eastern playoff games will be played in the province of Ontario. But where exactly? Remarkably, there remains a chance of Toronto winning the East and hosting the Eastern final! Presumably, that game would still be played at Skydome unless Rogers and the Blue Jays are still feeling melancholy and wish to really complicate the Argos’ lives even further.
For the Alouettes, they can still crossover to the west so long as they have just one more win than BC or Winnipeg at season’s end. But having let victory slip through their fingers numerous times, one has to wonder just how much good fortune they have left. They are benefitted by BC playing a tough schedule while the Blue Bombers have a mere two games in which to try and come out ahead.
Tomorrow’s game is far from guaranteed for the Als. Next week versus Edmonton is also a long shot unless the Eskimos decide to rest their starters for the playoffs. Even the final game of the season versus a hapless Saskatchewan Roughriders doesn’t allow this team to put an automatic notch in the win column. This Alouettes team has to find a way to win, period. Case closed.
The talent is there, that’s never EVER been the question. It really comes down to execution for this team. They don’t have to be the best team on the field, they just have to be a little bit better than their opponents. If the Montreal Alouettes weren’t in playoff mode before, they damn sure better be starting tomorrow!
Enjoy the game tomorrow, regardless of where you watch it.
GO ALS GO!!!