Friday, November 19, 2010

Montreal Alouettes Ready For Eastern Final Showdown With Toronto

This article was first published in the November 17th edition of Main Street Week and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox.

With a 12-6 record and another East Division title on their resumé, the Montreal Alouettes earned a week off in the first round of the CFL playoffs. While the Alouettes took care of their bumps and bruises, and any nagging injuries from a long season, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (9-9) and Toronto Argonauts (9-9) battled for the opportunity to advance to the Eastern Final and a showdown with Montreal at the Olympic Stadium on November 21st; the winner advances to the 98th Annual Grey Cup in Edmonton, Alberta.

The Alouettes were solid defensively this season, stopping the running backs of their opponents on a regular basis; allowing the fewest rushing touchdowns of any team in the CFL and less then 100 rushing yards against per game. Statistically, they were not as good defending the pass, only Hamilton allowed more passing yards per game then Montreal, but the Alouettes led the league in interceptions with 25. They may give up yards through the air, but they find a way to steal the ball back. In the CFL, winning the turnover battle often results in victories.

Despite the absence of Anthony Calvillo for several games this season, Montreal ranked second in the CFL in total net yards, field goals, passing touchdowns, and most importantly - total points scored. Calvillo missed two games with a bruised sternum, but still passed for almost 5,000 yards and 32 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions. Once again, he is a nominee for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Award.

As previously mentioned, the Tiger-Cats and Argonauts met at Hamilton’s Ivor-Wynne Stadium last Sunday (November 14th), with the Argonauts winning a close game by a 16-13 score. Coming off a 3-15 season last year, the Argonauts have struggled offensively, but they remain a dangerous opponent for Montreal. They are very good at returning kicks, giving themselves great field position when they start on offence, and their run game is dangerous; Cory Boyd finished second in the league in rushing with 1,359 rushing yards.

In his first season in the CFL, Toronto QB Cleo Lemon struggled in the pass-oriented league, but the good field position from kick-off returns and Boyd’s rushing abilities helped the Argonauts overcome any deficiencies in Lemon’s game. The Toronto QB passed for 3,433 yards but threw only 15 touchdowns and racked up 19 interceptions. The Alouettes defence will be looking to pick-off his errant passes, and knowing that Lemon has struggled as a passer, they can concentrate on stopping the running game.

When looking ahead to the Eastern Final, there are two important factors to consider. One is the fact the Alouettes are moving indoors to the Olympic Stadium. With an expected crowd in the 50,000 range, the stadium is going to be loud, which will be a huge advantage for Montreal. Another factor that could work against the Alouettes was the final two weeks of the CFL schedule. The final two games of the year were against Toronto and that provides the Argonauts with plenty of video to review and create a new game plan as they try for the upset in Montreal. Of course, it works both ways; Montreal has plenty of video on the Argonauts too.

It should make for an exciting Eastern Final, with the winner heading to Edmonton to face the winner of the Western Final, either the Calgary Stampeders (13-5) or the Saskatchewan Roughriders (10-8). The Alouettes look poised to be in their third consecutive Grey Cup game, they lost to Calgary in 2008 and defeated Saskatchewan in dramatic fashion in 2009. In the CFL, anything can happen, and it usually does - it looks like we are in for a tremendous finish to the 2010 season.

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