The Montreal Alouettes’ road odyssey continues this week as they roll into the nation’s capital to take on the first-place Ottawa RedBlacks. Fresh off a bye week and in front of arguably the loudest fans of the Canadian Football League, it’s easy to see why no one is giving the Alouettes a snowball’s chance in hell to win this game.
Ottawa is still in first place in the CFL’s Eastern division, buoyed by the other Eastern teams losing last week. They recently ended a two game losing streak against Edmonton and had to battle hard for that victory. A lot of people believe that playing Montreal would be the ideal tune-up to get back into the regular season flow. After all, Edmonton snapped their three game skid versus the Alouettes, so who can blame them for thinking that way?
The Alouettes believe otherwise, naturally. They have always played well against Henry Burris, who will be behind centre Friday evening. But the reigning CFL MOP is coming into this game with a slew of deadly receivers and a major chip on his shoulder. Burris has been criticized for his play as of late and he didn’t take kindly to it, prompting him to lace into the CFL on TSN panel. He’ll be looking to prove his critics wrong and is relishing the opportunity to take out any anger he has on Montreal.
Hopefully Smilin’ Hank will underestimate the young Alouettes secondary that he will be facing. Despite making rookie errors all season, this group of youngsters played a very solid game against Edmonton and they will be expected to keep Ottawa’s powerhouse receivers locked down. On paper, the match-up of Brad Sinopoli & Greg Ellingson versus the likes of Ethan Davis and Greg Henderson is hardly a fair fight. But if the rookie secondary can knock down more of Hank’s passes and get his frustrated, that can only be a bonus for Montreal.
The secondary will have former RedBlack Jovon Johnson in the lineup, making his return to Ottawa after leading their young defensive corps to the Grey Cup last season. He remembers being low-balled by RedBlacks general manager Marcel Desjardins and will want to show that he was worth more than the paltry sum offered to him.
The D-line is looking a bit thin with the loss of Michael Klassen to injury and the release of Vaughan Martin, who refused to take a paycut after playing seven underwhelming games for Montreal. This move will now give shots to Jesse Joseph and Jeff Finley to get some quality reps in. Joseph has been odd man out the past few games and Finley has been bothered by injuries. But both these National players are legit threats and will be looking to get in Henry Burris’ kitchen as much as possible Friday night.
Everyone of Montreal’s front seven is going to have to bring the heat against Burris and the RedBlacks. One player to keep an eye on is Kyries Hebert, who remains the last Ottawa Renegade standing. He always comes ready to play, but he always seems to feel extra motivated to play in this barn. If the Angry Bird comes out flying against the RedBlacks, I can envision a lot of two and outs for the Rouge et Noir.
This Alouettes defense is humming again and a good showing against Ottawa can be all the difference in this game. They will need the offense to start clicking though, as they can only be expected to do so much.
One positive for Montreal’s pedantic offense is that Duron Carter will be in the lineup for Montreal. It will certainly make for some good theatrics as this will be the first time that Carter has faced the RedBlacks since he was involved in the Montreal Melee that led to him being suspended one game by the league, with Ottawa head coach Rick Campbell and several of his RedBlacks fined for their part.
Carter appealed the suspension and a hearing took place this past Wednesday, with no decision rendered. Thus, Duron is still free to play football until further notice. He’s embraced the villain role that he seems to have bestowed upon him by detractors league-wide. He’ll find plenty of them in Ottawa tomorrow, as the boos and catcalls from RNation will surely rain down on Duron every time the ball is thrown in his direction.
When speaking with the media, Carter claims that he is already in the heads of the RedBlacks’ defenders and they will have to plan on double-teaming him in coverage as much as possible. If Duron is left open, Alouettes QB Kevin Glenn WILL find him and together they will make Ottawa pay.
But Carter is not the only one who needs passes thrown his way. Nik Lewis can jump-start this offense at any moment with his play. Both he and Samuel Giguere need to pound the pads of these Ottawa defenders and tire them out. This trend of Montreal going two and out on every other series has to stop. They need to move the chains Friday night, be it in the air to B.J. Cunningham or on the ground with both Brandon Rutley and J.C. Beaulieu lowering their shoulders to truck some defenders.
If Anthony Calvillo and Jacques Chapdelaine keep coming in with the same tired plan that they have been using for weeks on end, it’s going to be a long summer night on Bank Street. Ottawa’s defense has been prone to some big time plays these past few weeks and Montreal needs to be able to capitalize on that.
Finally, the Alouettes will have to counter the loudest stadium in the CFL. TD Place gets rocking when they have to, even on offense! Tomorrow’s game is sold out and Kevin Glenn will have to find a way to silence these boisterous fans. The last time the Alouettes played in TD Place, they were destroyed by Burris and the RedBlacks. Montreal is currently 0-4 versus Ottawa since 2015. But the RedBlacks have been far from perfect these past few weeks and if Montreal can set the tone early, this game has the makings of a classic.
Let’s not forget, Saskatchewan was able to beat the RedBlacks this year! It’s possible that this Ottawa team simply plays to the level of their competition. If that remains true, Montreal could very well pull the upset Friday night.
That’s all for now. If you are one of the many members of Alouettes Nation that will be making the trip to the game, be sure to head to Brewer Park for the tailgate. Located across the street from Carleton University, lots of fans will be setting up shop and having some great fun.
The alcoholic bevvies will be flowing, food will be grilling and all are welcome, regardless of which team you cheer for. Les Gars Qui Vivent will be on site, repping the Alouettes faithful proudly. Just look for their signature silver trailer and blue tent.
As always, you can find me on Twitter with last-minute thoughts and news. And if you haven’t already, be sure to download the latest edition of the Alouettes Flightdeck, located on Podbean, iTunes and Google Play Music. If you want things from a Ottawa perspective, check out the Bleed RedBlacks podcast and the Defend The R blog.
Enjoy the game, regardless of where you watch it.