CFL 2022 Eastern Final: Montreal Alouettes @ Toronto Argonauts Preview
- Location: BMO Field, Toronto, Canada
- Date: Sunday, November 13th, 2022
- Kickoff: 1 pm ET
- TV: TSN/ESPN2
- Betting Line: Argos favored by 3.5, Total Points: 48.5
- Weather: 37.1 °F, Wind: 17.9 mph
It’s been ten years since the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes have clashed in an East Final. In what seems like a lifetime ago, the Argos beat the Als 27-20 on November 18th, 2012, to advance and ultimately win the 100th Grey Cup.
Back then, Toronto was the second-place team at 9-9, on the road facing first-place Montreal, who was 11-7 in the Eastern Final. A decade later, the roles are reversed.
The Argonauts won the East in 2022 over the Alouettes by two games. Interestingly enough, Toronto’s dual one-point victories (20-19 & 24-23) over Montreal decided the division and location of Sunday’s East Final.
At the midway point of the 2022 CFL season. There was a lot of doubt attached to the Argos and Alouettes, and neither team was a sure bet to reach this game.
Toronto had a losing record of 4-5 after nine games. The Argonauts had an injury-plagued roster that was struggling to find consistency. The Boatmen righted their ship and went on to win seven of their next eight contests, beating the Alouettes in Montreal to clinch the East a week before the regular season concluded.
Montreal had a complete team transformation from where their 2022 campaign started. The Alouettes quickly jettisoned away their opening day head coach, Khari Jones, and starting quarterback Vernon Adams. GM Dany Maciocia put himself in the pilot’s seat and handed the controls to Trevor Harris at quarterback.
The early returns on the Danny Maciocia-Trevor Harris tandem weren’t that promising. After all, the Als were 2-6 nearing the midway point. But the team rallied, winning seven of their last ten regular season games, including an impressive semi-final conquest last week of back-to-back Grey Cup finalist Hamilton.
The Alouettes have earned their way to this opportunity. To have a chance to win a Grey Cup for the first time since 2010. Montreal needs to best the Boatmen on their own field this Sunday.
The Double Blue are trying to avoid a Deja-Vu scenario in this year’s East Final. The ghosts of last season’s demise in the six have driven Toronto in 2022, and they will haunt this Argonauts team until they can right the wrong of 2021.
CFL 2022 Eastern Final: Montreal Alouettes Depth Chart
The Montreal Alouettes are relatively healthy coming into the Eastern Final, and there are no real surprises on their position chart for this game.
Linebacker Micah Awe (shoulder), defensive back Raheem Wilson (knee), receiver Reggie White Jr. (knee), and offensive lineman Sean Jamieson (knee) will all be out again for Sunday’s matchup.
The good news for the Als is that defensive lineman Almondo Sewell (hip) practiced fully late in the week after being limited on Thursday and will be available to play.
CFL 2022 Eastern Final: Toronto Argonauts Depth Chart
The real drama attached to the East Final Depth Charts is on Toronto’s side of the fence.
The primary headline is the return of RB Andrew Harris to the Argos lineup. After what appeared to be a season-ending pec injury in the summer.
However, several other Toronto players also have missed extensive time and were looking to return for this pivotal contest.
Back for Double Blue are defensive MOP candidate LB Wynton McManis (knee) and DB/LB Chris Edwards.
Not suited up for the Argos on Sunday are OT Isiah Cage, C Peter Nicastro, WR Eric Rogers, and DB Robertson Daniel. All four practiced in the hopes of playing in the East Final but just missed the final cut.
The Argos will be without Defensive backs Maurice Carnell (knee) and Tigie Sankoh (bicep). Shaq Richardson is back, starting at boundary halfback in place of Carnell. Chris Edwards returns to his normal Sam linebacker spot. Robert Priester will play a swing role subbing behind Edwards and Richardson.
The offensive line for Toronto retains the same look it had during the regular season. Despite recent returnees, OT Isiah Cage and C Peter Nicastro working to get back to permanent starting roles.
The Argos have loaded up in their backfield, dressing four running backs (Andrew Harris, AJ Ouellette, Daniel Adeboboye, and Javon Leake. And two fullbacks, Declan Cross and Brandon Calver. Toronto is going light in other areas to accommodate six players in their backfield who also contribute on special teams.
Keys To A Montreal East Final Victory
Balance and efficiency are two of Montreal’s greatest strengths on offence.
The last time, Montreal’s starting offence went head-to-head with Toronto’s front-line defence. Back in Week 20, The Alouettes generated 519 total yards. Trevor Harris threw for 413 yards and two scores, and Montreal’s receivers had 254 yards after the catch.
The Als’ dynamic duo at RB of William Stanback and Walter Fletcher combined for 226 yards in their previous matchup against Toronto. Eugene Lewis (6-72-1td) and Jake Wieneke (5-121-1td) also delivered big performances against the Boatmen in late October.
The most impressive stat for Montreal, however, was the 17 points they scored in the fourth quarter. After some missed scoring opportunities early on, Trevor Harris and the Alouettes cracked Toronto’s code on defence and moved the ball at will in crunch time.
Toronto’s defensive unit all season long has feasted on great red zone defence, (the fewest majors allowed in the CFL in this area). And in forcing turnovers (48, tops in the league).
As a result, the key to beating the Argos is capitalizing in the red zone and playing mistake-free football.
Montreal has the type of QB who can play that style of game perfectly.
The Alouettes’ defence is coming off arguably their best performance of the season against Hamilton. They produced six sacks and forced crucial Ti-Cats turnovers in the Semi-Final. However, the last time Montreal met up with McLeod Bethel-Thompson and the Argos attack. The Alouettes’ defence only produced one sack. MBT completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, and Toronto averaged over six yards per run play.
The Alouettes front-seven needs to pressure Thompson and win up front. Something they didn’t accomplish against Toronto in their last real meeting.
Chris Ackie and Tyrice Beverette had terrific games in the Eastern Semi-Final, with Beverette standing out as a disruptor in blitz packages. Look for Alouettes defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe to dial up more creative blitzes this week to prohibit McLeod Bethel-Thompson from having time to execute passes downfield.
On special teams, Chandler Worthy will have an opportunity to exact the ultimate revenge against Toronto this Sunday by dashing their Grey Cup hopes; Worthy averaged 17 yards per punt return in his last matchup with the Argonauts. Primarily because of a 41-yard return. But Worthy also came close to scoring, once on a 38-yard kick return.
Special teams could very well be the deciding factor for Montreal. And this is an area where the Alouettes can break through with big plays and by turning field position in their favor.
Keys To A Toronto Victory
Will Toronto stay committed to their ground attack? And how will they deploy Andrew Harris and AJ Ouellette in the same backfield?
Two significant questions entering this game.
A week ago, Montreal got in front of Hamilton 22-6 at halftime. As a result, the Ti-Cats had to abandon their run game, only running their lead back Wes Hills six times for thirty-eight yards.
Toronto had great success running the football against the Alouettes in their last genuine head-to-head meeting.
Montreal trots out a smaller lineup at linebacker and can be overmatched in the trenches. Will the Double Blue be able to duplicate the success they had nearly a month ago?
All season long, McLeod Bethel-Thompson has relied heavily on passes in intermediate areas. MBT completed nearly 70 percent of his passes against Montreal. But you have to figure that the Als’ defence will look to adjust and take away the Argos bread and butter passes between the ashes. MBT will have to challenge Montreal’s defence on the outside at cornerback.
It’s imperative that Toronto finds a way to make plays down the field. It will open up the run game even more. Especially if Montreal’s D continues to bring the heat the way they did against Hamilton.
Defensively, Corey Mace needs to show different looks this time out against Montreal. Trevor Harris is fully capable of beating a bend but don’t break style defence. As he proved the last time, these two teams met.
The Argos need to tactfully force the issue with more zone blitzing with the utilization of different coverages. Because as proven in their last meeting with Harris. Once Trevor gets a beat on what you are doing, he can excel.
Toronto’s defensive backs need to play physical, in order to counter the short passes Montreal leans on. Open-field tackling is essential to limit the Alouettes gains in their quick passing game.
The Argos’ top pass rushers have to rise to the occasion. JaGared Davis (7 sacks) has played on a different level since returning from injury. The grizzled vet was brought on board with the Argonauts specifically for this type of game.
Toronto special teams coordinator Mickey Donovan has done a respectable job. But his group is facing its most significant challenge on Sunday. The coverage units for Toronto have improved from a year ago. But this game could be a deciding factor in the longevity of Donovan’s stay in the six. It’s time for this group to earn the championship belts; Donovan rewards his players after every game.
Boris Bede has struggled with accuracy late in the season. He hasn’t been the same kicker he was a year ago. In the Montreal-Toronto matchups this year, games have been decided by the specialists. Bede needs to be on top of his game for the Argos to advance to the Grey Cup.
CFL 2022 Eastern Final: Montreal Alouettes @ Toronto Argonauts Prediction
Careers are defined by these moments. It seems like both of these teams have players who can change their CFL narrative by getting to and winning a Grey Cup.
Elite players like William Stanback and Eugene Lewis already have sensational resumes in the CFL. But they are missing that championship moment in their careers. Something that Andrew Harris has had on several occasions.
Trevor Harris and McLeod Bethel-Thompson, on the other hand, for varying reasons, have had their fair share of detractors throughout their careers in Canada. Both vets have had impressive statistical resumes in the CFL. But neither quarterback has been perceived as championship-caliber. One of the two will be leading their team in a Grey Cup game next week.
The Argonauts and Alouettes are evenly matched-teams. It makes this a tough game to predict. Typically having a bye week and playing at home will give a team a decided advantage.
However, despite their two victories over the Als this year. I don’t believe Toronto matches up well with Montreal. Simply because the Alouettes force the Argonauts to play against type. Toronto is not a run-dependent team on offence. And they prefer playing a bend but don’t break style defensively.
I don’t think this game will be decided by a single point. But I expect it to be close. Ultimately, when the smoke clears on Sunday at BMO, I think Montreal wins.
Montreal Alouettes 29 Toronto Argonauts 24
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