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CFL 2022: Argonauts-Alouettes Regular Season Finale Preview

It’s been 26 years since the final weekend of a CFL regular season has had no playoff ramifications. We have reached this anomaly because the 2022 playoff schedule was finalized in the league’s penultimate week.

As a result, Week 21’s CFL slate is nothing more than glorified preseason games. The calm before the playoff storm.

B.C. will host Calgary in the West Final at 4:30 pm EDT next Sunday afternoon. While the reigning CFL champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers lay in wait at home. Meanwhile, Montreal will host Hamilton in the East Semi-Final next Sunday at 1 pm EDT as Toronto awaits the winner at BMO Field on Sunday, November 13th.

CFL Week 21: Montreal Alouettes @ Toronto Argonauts Preview

The story of Week 21 across the CFL is more about who is playing than who is not.

For BC, it’s all about Canadian sensation QB Nathan Rourke returning from injury to get his feet wet before the playoffs. In Calgary, it’s a swan song at home for future hall of fame QB Bo Levi Mitchell as he plays what could be his final game as a Stampeder. Perhaps, Bo will be playing against his future team, Saskatchewan, on Saturday night.

In Toronto on Saturday at 2 pm ET, all eyes will be on CFL rookie quarterback Chad Kelly, who will make his first pro start north of the border.

Toronto (11-6) and Montreal (8-9) settled the East division last week at the final gun. As a result, both teams are pressing pause and regrouping for the playoffs. The Argonauts and Alouettes could meet again in the Six in two weeks, battling to win the East Final and a spot in the 109th Grey Cup.

Week 21 is all about staying healthy and giving young players a shot to shine while veterans recharge their batteries for the postseason.

In the CFL, it’s much more challenging than in other leagues to sit every starting player because of the salary cap and ratio restrictions. So Toronto and Montreal had to be creative in setting their lineups for Saturday’s game.

CFL Week 21: Montreal Alouettes Depth Chart

Montreal is expected to take the same tact as Toronto for Week 21.

Trevor Harris, Eugene Lewis, and many other frontline Alouettes starters are out of the mix this weekend for Montreal. While some other starters will be in uniform, like William Stanback, who will likely make a brief cameo.

The focus on the pivot will be on Toronto’s starter. But Dominique Davis also has a unique story. He’s far from a novice in Canada. The 33-year old well-traveled veteran has been in the CFL since 2015. Davis’s most extensive starting experience came with Ottawa in 2019. In Montreal, he’s been a short-yardage specialist; he’s second in the league in rushing touchdowns with 12.

Portland State rookie Davis Alexander is backing up Davis and is sure to get playing time on Saturday. The first-year CFL player had an impressive showing in the preseason. So he will get an opportunity to build on that.

CFL Week 21: Toronto Argonauts Depth Chart

As expected, the Argos lineup from a week ago looks vastly different. Some regular starters are still in the lineup, but they could all be getting quick hooks. It’s mainly window dressing; players are in uniform simply for emergency and salary cap purposes.

Offensively, McLeod Bethel-Thompson is active but as the third-string quarterback. RB AJ Ouellette is dressed but will give way to backups Daniel Adeboboye and Javon Leake. The rookie Adeboboye gets his first CFL start. Brandon Calver is in at fullback for Declan Cross.

At Wide Receiver, starters like DaVaris Daniels, Kurleigh Gittens, and Markeith Ambles are dressing but listed in backup roles. Cam Phillips remains as a starter. Brandon Banks is inactive. Jeremiah Haydel, Tommy Nield, Dejon Brissett and Juwan Brescasin are suited up for first team duties.

The offensive line has an entirely different starting five from last week. The big news is that Isiah Cage is active after a lengthy absence and will be starting at left tackle. Phililip Blake sits. Theren Churchill takes over on the right side with Dejon Allen as his backup. On the interior, Ryan Hunter slides over to Centre. Justin Lawrence will back him up. Dylan Giffen and Gregor MacKellar will take the reins at guard.

Defensively, the Double Blue goes without LB Henoc Muamba, DB Jamal Peters, DB Chris Edwards, and defensive linemen Shawn Oakman, JaGared Davis, Robbie Smith, and DeWayne Hendrix. Replacing them in the first unit are Jack Cassar, Caleb Holden, Brandon Barlow, Ali Fayad, and rookie Brandon Knight.

The Boatmen’s starting secondary mostly remains in tact. But expect Eric Sutton and Josh Haggerty should see extensive playing time.

In a bit of a surprise, specialists Boris Bede and John Hagerty are both active. Toshiki Sato will remain inactive.

Beyond the big story of Chad Kelly starting with another American rookie QB Ben Holmes in tow to get some snaps. Multiple other Argonauts are getting an extended audition this weekend. Including players who haven’t seen any snaps at all this season.

Of Toronto’s 15 practice roster players in Week 20, 9 have been elevated to play in Saturday’s game. Players like defensive linemen Jared Brinkman are making their CFL debut.

CFL Week 21: Montreal Alouettes @ Toronto Argonauts Prediction

Breaking down a game like this by the matchups is fruitless, not just because this contest is filled with backup players. But mainly because these are divisional opponents who could meet again in two weeks. As a result, the game plans for the Alouettes and Argonauts are going to be extremely vanilla.

Neither team will unveil or test out any new concepts. The show me something game for seldomly used players is a show-you-nothing exercise for the coaches.

So with all that being stated, perhaps predicting this type of game is foolhardy or meaningless. But after doing this for 17 games this season. I might as well complete the eighteenth. The oddsmakers have Toronto as a 3.5-point favorite, for whatever it’s worth. And surprisingly, the point total is set at an overly optimistic 49.5.

Montreal has the experience advantage at quarterback with Dominique Davis, which typically helps in this type of game. After all, there’s no telling how Chad Kelly will perform in his first real action as a CFL passer. There may be a reality check and some growing pains for the former Ole Miss Star. Poor and indecisive decision-making is a regular occurrence for first-time CFL quarterbacks.

Usually, experience at QB wins out overall in any game. However, Toronto is at home, and the team has exhibited great depth all season. Thanks to the excellent handiwork done by the Argos’ front office. I give the Boatmen a slight edge in this unconventional regular-season finale. Just for kicks and just because the first two Argos-Als games were decided by one point apiece. I will follow that theme.

Toronto Argonauts 18 Montreal Alouettes 17

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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