Friday, October 30, 2009

Alouettes Prepare for the CFL Playoffs

This article was first published in the October 30th edition of Main Street Week and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday.

Alouettes Prepare for the CFL Playoffs

The season is slowly winding down in the Canadian Football League and as Halloween approaches one thing is clear; the Montreal Alouettes are frightfully good. Riding the arm of Quarterback Anthony Calvillo, the legs of Running Back Avon Cobourne and the heart of the CFL’s best defence, the Al’s are once again the Eastern Division winners and will host the Eastern Championship game on November 22nd at the Olympic Stadium.

With the division title wrapped up and two games left to play, the Alouettes are in dangerous territory. The coaching staff will have to decide whether they have their starters playing significant time in each game risking injury or if they will keep the starting line-up off the field and risk an ineffective offence when the playoffs begin. Head Coach Marc Trestman will have some difficult decisions to make as the rest of the league battles for playoff positions.

Three teams could stand in the way of another Grey Cup appearance for the Alouettes. The much-improved Hamilton Tiger-Cats could be dangerous; with seven wins this season they have already surpassed their win total from the past two years combined. The dysfunctional Winnipeg Blue Bombers appear to be rounding into form at the right time and after a dismal start, they may earn a playoff spot for rookie Head Coach Mike Kelly.

Another possible opponent, thanks to the CFL’s crossover playoff format, is the Western Division’s Edmonton Eskimos; a team that has struggled at times this year and has not won back-to-back games since August. The Eskimos have Ricky Ray at Quarterback and he can be as dangerous on the field as Calvillo is for the Alouettes - he could steal a playoff game if given the opportunity.

As good as the Alouettes are, their 41-24 loss last Saturday to the Blue Bombers gave Montreal fans a glimpse of life without Anthony Calvillo at Quarterback. Backup QB, Adrian McPherson, was at the helm while Calvillo served as backup due to a leg injury suffered in Montreal’s 41-38 win against Hamilton on October 18th. While McPherson played well and many football analysts expect him to become the team’s number one QB in the future, he lacks the experience that Calvillo brings to the field. It is difficult to imagine an Alouettes team without Calvillo at the helm; this season is his 16th in the CFL and 12th with Montreal.

While Montreal has already qualified for the post season, the defence has relinquished 79 points in the last two games against the Tiger-Cats and Blue Bombers and that is something both teams could take advantage of in a playoff game. The opposing coaches will certainly look at the game tapes to examine what went wrong for Montreal, looking for an advantage in a possible playoff match-up.

To finish the season, Montreal is home to the Blue Bombers on November 1 and then they travel to Toronto to play the hopeless Argonauts on November 7. If Winnipeg loses in Montreal, their chances of securing a playoff spot could disappear. Have a great sports day everyone.

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