Tomorrow’s game just became the first playoff game for the Birds of Prey.
The Montreal Alouettes are officially in a do-or-die situation when they take the field in Edmonton to face the Eskimos. With the win by the BC Lions last night versus the Toronto Argonauts, Montreal needs to win tomorrow in order to keep their hopes of a crossover to the West and their 19 year playoff appearance streak alive.
A loss tomorrow means that next Sunday’s game versus the Roughriders won’t be just the last football game played in the 514, but the last game played in the 2015 season. It’s been a tumultuous season for the Alouettes this year but hope still remains that they can run the table and with a little bit of luck, a miracle trip to the Grey Cup is possible.
Any hope of Edmonton taking this game lightly is thrown out the window when you consider that despite being first in the West and guaranteed a playoff game in their barn, they still haven’t clinched home field advantage. A win tomorrow will do that and essentially give them three weeks off, as they have a bye next week and would await the winner of the Western semi-final. So the Esks will be fired up and ready to go tomorrow afternoon.
The last time these two teams faced off was earlier this summer in Montreal in what could generously be described as a defensive tilt. In reality, both teams struggled to put points on the board and the Alouettes let a scant lead slip away. It took literally all 60 minutes for the Eskimos to pull out a win with a last second field goal at Percival Molson Stadium. Tomorrow’s game should feature a lot more scoring, as both Kevin Glenn and Mike Reilly will be slinging the rock for Montreal and Edmonton respectively.
After playing an outstanding game last Friday in Hamilton to beat the Argos, Glenn’s play tomorrow could literally be the difference maker. He has yet to face the Eskimos this season, so they have no way to know just how much he will be able to connect with this Alouettes receiving corps. Last week, Glenn was able to find guys like S.J. Green and Nik Lewis with pinpoint accuracy as well as letting Tyrell Sutton and Brandon Rutley run roughshod over the Argos. He’ll have to do the same thing again against an always dangerous Edmonton front seven
The Alouettes catch a break as Aaron Grymes won’t be in the lineup tomorrow. He has a knack for punishing opposing QBs and picking them off at opportune times. But Edmonton’s defense loves to punish people and going to sleep on a Dexter McCoil or Patrick Watkins would be absolutely foolish. If those guys are able to stay step for step with Montreal’s receivers, it’ll be another low-scoring affair at Commonwealth Stadium.
It’ll be a homecoming of sorts for Fred Stamps, who until this season played all of his CFL games with the Green and Gold. He became expendable with the rise of Adarius Bowman’s play and a deal was swung to bring the veteran to the Alouettes. It came at a steep price, as Kenny Stafford was the other player in that trade. So far that trade last December has greatly favoured the Eskimos as Stafford has been an absolute dynamo, hauling in 707 yards and 9 touchdowns the season. And when teams started covering Stafford more, it allowed Bowman and Derell Walker to get open and become more offensive threats for Edmonton.
Another former Alouette will also be in the lineup for the Esks as Sean Whyte has resurfaced and been extremely clutch kicking for Edmonton. His next field goal will move him past the legendary Milt Stegall to twenty-fourth all time in CFL scoring. Incredible when you consider that Whyte was all set to hang up his cleats after being released by the Alouettes earlier this year.
Whyte still gets a lot of love from Alouettes Nation, who were sad to see him released this season. But his replacement Boris Bede has played some outstanding football in his first CFL season, only missing 3 of his 38 field goal attempts for a simply unreal 92% completion rate. And who’s in second place with a 90% completion rate? Yup, Sean Whyte. If this match tomorrow turns into a kicking duel, the first one to blink could possibly lose this game for their team.
To win tomorrow in what will no doubt be a hostile environment, the Alouettes will have to channel the team that ended both the BC Place curse and the team that handed the Hamilton Tiger-Cats their first loss at Tim Hortons Field; Montreal has to be a bunch of bullies, hitting Edmonton first, hard and often.
Last week, the Saskatchewan Roughriders gave the Eskimos plenty of fits before halftime adjustments were made and Edmonton was able to keep their winning streak of seven games intact. Montreal’s defense is the kind that can put a ton of pressure on a Mike Reilly and force him to make mistakes. John Bowman and Alan-Michael Cash had a monster game last week and the possibility of being able to plant Reilly on the ground will have them foaming at the mouth tomorrow afternoon.
There will be no Kyries Hebert again for Montreal as he still deals with concussion issues. Nicolas Boulay will slot in and hopefully continue his break-neck style of play. But the one guy who Edmonton needs to corral is Winston Venable, who has simply been outstanding in the linebacking corps. Standing out in this defense isn’t easy, but this man has been a threat every time he steps out on the field.
I also expect a big game out of the Montreal secondary, as they could easily profit from an errant Reilly pass if given the opportunity. Jerald Brown proved age is nothing but a number with his stellar INT last week. These young guns Dominique Ellis and Mitchell White don’t want to be shown up by the old guy again, so they’ll be eyeing Reilly and sticking real close to Kenny Stafford, Derell Walker and Nate Coehoorn.
Part of me expects another defensive tilt in Edmonton tomorrow afternoon, but the potential for a shootout is extremely high. There’s a lot on the line for both of these teams; we’ll see who wants it the most.
This week I joined the good people of the Eskimo Empire Podcast to talk about tomorrow’s game and all things Alouettes. Feel free to give it a listen and if you’re a fan of CFL podcasts, theirs is one always worthy of checking out. Following them is a must for any fans of the Green and Gold.
That’s all for now. Be sure to follow along on Twitter for last minute news and thoughts. Enjoy tomorrow’s game, regardless of where you watch it.
GO ALS GO!!!