Alouettes say “bye” to weeks off, shift into playoff mode

For the enigmatic Montreal Alouettes, every game counts from here on out.

The team just returned from the last of their bye weeks and will be looking to set the tone for the second part of this 2019 CFL season. They have nine games left and the goal could not be more crystal clear: Playoffs.

I’m sure had we started throwing around that particular word in late May when the Alouettes arrived in La Belle Province for training camp, we’d be laughed right out of the country. Or better yet, been hit with this timeless meme:

But believe it, folks. The dumpster fire has been long extinguished here in Montreal. These Alouettes are not a joke. And these next nine games are a tune-up for better things to come.

The first step on that road to the Grey Cup playoffs starts right here, as the Alouettes will defend the nest Friday night versus the B.C. Lions, who have fallen well short of expectations this season.

With the hiring of DeVone Claybrooks as head coach and the big-time acquisition of Mike Reilly, the Lions were expected to contend immediately in a tough Western division. But instead, it’s been tough sledding for the Left Coast squad. Reilly has spent more time looking up at the lights than throwing touchdowns due to an offensive line that has been, simply put, a dog’s breakfast.

So bad that it cost former Alouette Bryan Chiu his job as the Offensive Line coach in BC. It will be up to former Lion Kelly Bates to right this particular wrong. His first test won’t be an easy one, as his squad will have to protect Reilly from some very dangerous players.

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Montreal’s defense has really turned the league on its ear with their outstanding performance game in and game out. While there are no league leaders in the lineup, the collective efforts of these Alouettes cannot be denied. This team comes together and are a disruptive force.

Guys like Patrick Levels and Tommie Campbell have led the way and put a lot of fear in the opposing offense. Greg Reid has emerged as a star in the making, leading the Alouettes in interceptions. Even grizzled veteran John Bowman is playing with renewed energy, making you wonder if he was just kidding around last season with his talk of being “98% done” with playing football.

Montreal’s defense will have to be ready to play against a Lions team that must be in desperation mode. Despite their lone victory, the Lions are still putting a lot of points on the board. Reilly is still able to get the ball downfield more often that not and the Alouettes will have to exploit that aerial attack. Which means the secondary has to be all over guys like Bryan Burnham, Lemar Durant and Duron Carter.

The one area that has to be a huge concern for the Alouettes on Friday is special teams. Ryan Lankford has been one of the few bright spots for the Lions, returning kicks for touchdowns (a big reason why I hoped that the Alouettes would have picked him up in free agency). Considering how the Alouettes’ special teams were torched a few weeks ago by Ottawa, keeping a real talent like Lankford in check will be crucial Friday evening.

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Both Montreal and BC have not fared well coming off the bye week this year. Both teams were off last week, so someone will have their luck change. How will Montreal win this game?

It starts at the top with Vernon Adams Jr., who is getting a lot of MOP talk lately for what he has done in helping turn this team around. Like his defense, he’s not a league leader in certain statistical areas. But Vernon does exactly what is needed to get the win.

To get Montreal’s sixth win of the season, Adams will have to rely on all of his weapons. William Stanback is rested and ready to explode out of the gate again. Receivers like Devier Posey and Eugene Lewis will be looking to make more highlight-worthy plays.

But most importantly, Adams and his crew cannot wait until the second half to kickstart this attack and score points. They need touchdowns early and often against this Lions team. They cannot allow this to become a trap game. The Alouettes need to make a statement and get their fans thinking ’bout coming to a playoff game in November.

Which reminds me: The last time the Alouettes hosted a playoff game at Percival Molson Stadium was in 2014 where they straight up dummied a team from the West to the tune of 50-14. Montreal’s young upstart quarterback handily beat BC’s veteran pivot and it was a moment in time for an Alouettes team that would soon go through a very dark period. That Western team? Yup, the BC Lions.

Could history repeat itself? We’ll find out Friday night.

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That’s all for now. Here’s hoping that things turn out better compared to the last time the Alouettes played at Percival Molson Stadium, both on and off the field.

As always, the tailgate will be rocking on the East side of the stadium. Bring your eats and your bevvies and enjoy the start to the second half of the season with some great CFL fans! As always, look for the silver trailer and blue tent. All fans are welcome.

Enjoy the game, regardless of where you watch it.

GO ALS GO!!!

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