It’s the start of Labour Day weekend. And the Montreal Alouettes need to get to work.
Simply put, their time is now. The first nine games of the 2017 season are done and despite their 3-6 record, Montreal is still very much in contention for a playoff spot. But the excuses and the almost-couldas need to stop. Talking time is over.
It’s time that this Alouettes team finally live up to its potential and win. No better way to get that started than versus the Ottawa RedBlacks on Thursday.
Despite Ottawa finding ways to lose games this season, they’ve been able to luck into a couple of victories, including a narrow win versus Montreal at TD Place earlier this year. The defending Grey Cup champions haven’t been overly impressive in 2017 and have really only beaten one team with a winning record. Even that game they tried to give to the BC Lions, who were one bad Travis Lulay pass away from completing a miracle comeback.
Neither Ottawa or Montreal are particularly good teams. But each squad does some things very well and those will be key. The biggest key for Montreal will be to get the offense going in a positive direction quickly. The RedBlacks are tops in the league at red zone defense, so Montreal is going to have to stretch the secondary and put together some big plays.
No more of these 4 yard passes from our supposedly elite quarterback Darian Durant. I want to see him heave the ball downfield and find Ernest Jackson deep. After a slow start, Jackson has become a great target and is on pace for another 1000 yard season. Durant will also need to find his talented National receiver George Johnson for some heads-up play.
Having thrown nine TDs in his last 5 games, there’s no question that Durant can put points on the board. He just has to make better decisions and set the tone early. Montreal still has one of the best rushing attacks in the league, so it would be very wise to get the ball on the ground and let Tyrell Sutton rack up the yards.
With J-C Beaulieu still banged up, I am wanting to see more of what Oumar Toure can do as fullback. The Alouettes always think they can catch their opponents napping by inserting Stefan Logan in as a rusher or checkdown receiver, but teams have been wise to it for a while now. I am interested in seeing what potential Toure, the former Sherbrooke Vert et Or member, has for the Alouettes.
On defense, this secondary will have yet another tall task in front of it; shut down Ottawa’s Greg Ellingson. Leading the league in receiving yards, all this guy does is score touchdowns. But the young tandem of Jonathon Mincy and Greg Henderson have done a great job in shutting down the elite receivers in this league. On home turf, they’ve limited superstars like Duron Carter and S.J. Green to a mere 12 and 32 yards respectively. No small feat, indeed.
Both Ellingson and Brad Sinopoli are masters of extending drives for Ottawa; any chance this defense gets in breaking up plays versus “The Buds” has to be taken.There’s not much of a run game for Ottawa unless QB Trevor Harris decides to take the rock himself. He’s also been the master of taking nothing plays and turning them into something. Harris currently leads the league in TD passes and 30+ yard completions, so this Alouettes defense will have to try extra hard to get into his kitchen.
Even when they’ve lost, the RedBlacks have been extremely competitive in their outings. With the exception of their blowout win versus the hapless Tiger-Cats, all of their games have been decided by seven points or less. Although I am always saying that you are what your record says you are, this Ottawa team could possibly be much better than their record indicates.
The Alouettes have proven to be resilient over the past few games, but they simply can’t keep playing catch-up like they did against Winnipeg. I don’t believe that Ottawa will be taking Montreal as lightly as the Blue Bombers seemed to do. One of these underachieving teams will get their 4th win of the season and whoever does will likely set the tone for the rest of their season in a positive manner.
This is a crucial divisional game, as these two will play twice in the next 30 days. In this weak Eastern division, you need to be realistic and be aiming for one of the first two playoff spots, as a crossover from the West is almost a foregone conclusion at this point. Despite their woes, I do see both Montreal and Ottawa as the more viable candidates to be representing the East. They can easily win some ugly games still this year.
Montreal will have the home field advantage, as they are 3-2 at Percival Molson Stadium. Ottawa’s lone road win was against Hamilton and they will want to repeat what they did last season; sweep the Alouettes in their own barn. The Vegas oddsmakers are saying Thursday’s game is a pick’em, as these two teams are as evenly matched as you will find. I tend to agree with that sentiment.
It will be an exciting night of football and thankfully, the last Thursday night game that the Alouettes will be involved in this season. Despite only getting 18,500 fans last game, this team was able to entertain and CFL history was made thanks to Nik Lewis. The team plans to give Nik the proper honour he deserves in front of his beloved fans before Thursday’s game.
Be sure to check out the tailgate and festivities before the game; you never know who will swing by and say hello. You can also check out the latest episode of the Alouettes FlightDeck podcast by clicking here or searching on iTunes or Google Play Music.
They say the games in the CFL don’t matter until after Labour Day. I daresay that from this point forward, every game matters for the Alouettes. It’s time for that statement win and Thursday is as good a day as any to get the winning started.
Enjoy the game, regardless of where you watch it.