Week Five of the 2017 CFL season starts a bit earlier than expected. You typically don’t see too many CFL games played on a Wednesday night.
But that’s what awaits the Montreal Alouettes as they hit the road in search of another win. A visit to the nation’s capital to face the defending Grey Cup champion Ottawa RedBlacks is in store for the Birds of Prey. It won’t be an easy path to their second straight victory.
Not only will the Alouettes be walking into a hostile environment at a sold-out TD Place, but they will be facing a team still searching for its first win of the season. That’s not to say that the RedBlacks are a bad team; rather, they have been competitive in all four of their previous tilts. Playing against some of the toughest teams in the league like Calgary, Edmonton and even Toronto.
But the wins just haven’t been able to materialize. Ottawa will be ravenous playing in front of their fan base and no victory would be sweeter than beating their geographical and division rival. The Alouettes have to be as mentally prepared for that as they were in facing the insurmountable odds that they faced last Friday against the Stampeders.
Simply put, Montreal has to be ready for a street fight. But they cannot lower themselves to a level of being in such a combat. Montreal’s had to deal with a serious lack of discipline and the penalties have been a lot to handle. No doubt the RedBlacks are going to test the limits of patience. The key for Montreal will be to rise above it and play their kind of football.
It took a couple of games’ worth for Montreal to finally find their form. But last week’s win versus Calgary was a major boost of confidence for the Als. Being able to piece together some great drives and finally break past the 20 point plateau was exactly what this team needed. Yet the Alouettes still don’t get the respect that a (tied for) first place team deserves.
Montreal will be glad to welcome back Jonathon Mincy to the lineup after missing time with a concussion. His play, along with the rise of youngsters like Chris Ackie and Dondre Wright made perennial all-star Ryan Phillips expendable.
As one of the league’s dynamic playmakers, Mincy will have to be ready to shut down one of the premier receivers in Greg Ellingson. He has quickly become the favourite target of QB Trevor Harris, who is eager to establish himself in the shadow of retired QB Henry Burris.
The RedBlacks are Harris’ team now, but many in RNation are already growing weary of the L’s piling up and there’s a lot of side-eye being thrown towards the young veteran pivot. Out-dueling a wizened vet like Darian Durant (who is 4-0 as a starter versus the RedBlacks!) would be a major feather in Harris’ cap.
Both teams are fairly even when it comes to their offense. Tyrell Sutton won’t be in the lineup due to the short week, so in comes Brandon Rutley for his 2017 debut. Sitting the league leader in rushing doesn’t normally scream strategic, but this is no ordinary backup.
Rutley also has great speed and will be given the chance to take full advantage of a run defense that has allowed some big gains. And now the secret’s out on fullback J-C Beaulieu; when the mainstream media is starting to echo what I’ve been telling you all for some time now, that’s when it gets real. Beaulieu always seems to save his best football for the games at TD Place and I don’t see that changing Wednesday night.
Durant will also be targeting former Redblack Ernest Jackson as he makes his return to Ottawa. Last week, he woke up in a big way versus Calgary and he’ll be looking to take advantage of his former team’s winless ways. With both he and B.J. Cunningham eager to light it up, Ottawa better be ready to go.
If they can do like they did last year and walk out of TD Place with a convincing win, not only will the Alouettes be on their first winning streak of the season but they just may be able to finally get some respect from the rest of the Canadian Football League.
This will be Montreal’s lone scheduled trip to Ottawa in 2017. Hopefully, there will be one more in late November. But it’s far too soon to think about that. First, there’s a little matter of defeating the team that just raised a Grey Cup banner last month.
This will be a great test for Montreal. This is their first of two straight road games and to be able to silence the critics for another week is a great motivating factor. It won’t be an easy game for the Alouettes, but if this was easy, everyone would be 18-0 in the CFL.
While Wednesday night football won’t be the norm (HOPEFULLY!), this will be the chance that Montreal needs to succeed. Get ready for a real battle.
Enjoy the game tomorrow, regardless of where you watch it.