The East Final is a rematch of last year’s East Final as the Montreal Alouettes once again travel to BMO Field to take on the Toronto Argonauts. Both teams have changed a lot since last season with different quarterbacks under center and CFL rookies making an impact in their first season in the CFL.
Alouettes East Finals Reading:
CFL Eastern Final: Montreal Alouettes (12-7) at Toronto Argonauts (16-2) Preview
Jeshrun Antwi of the Montreal Alouettes Interview Ahead of CFL East Division Finals
Reflecting on the CFL East Semi-Finals Montreal 27, Hamilton 12: Observations, Expanded Defensive Player Stats
Lions West Finals Reading:
CFL Western Final: BC Lions (13-6) at Winnipeg Blue Bombers (14-4) Preview
Tibo Debaillie of the BC Lions Interview Ahead of CFL West Division Finals Against Winnipeg
Reflecting on the CFL West Semi-Finals BC 41, Calgary 30: Observations, Expanded Defensive Player Stats:
CFL Eastern Semi-Final Preview: Montreal Alouettes (11-7) vs Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-10)
Reggie Stubblefield of the Alouettes Interview Ahead of CFL East Division Semi-Finals Against Hamilton
CFL Western Semi-Final: Preview BC Lions (12-6) vs Calgary Stampeders (6-12)
Tibo Debaillie of the BC Lions Interview Ahead of CFL West Division Semi-Finals Against Calgary
Montreal Alouettes Week 21 Extended Report
Mike Mitchell’s Final Power Rankings
Predicting the Rest of the CFL Season
CFL 2nd Period All-Star Team (Weeks 8-14)
CFL Midseason All-Star Team, Awards
First Period CFL and Divisional All-Stars
@JonathanClink on Twitter
Date/Location: Saturday, November 11 /BMO Field, Toronto, ON
Kickoff Time: 3 PM ET, 12 PM PT
Channel: TSN (Canada), CFL+ (USA, International)
Spread: Montreal +10.5 (-110), Toronto -10.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Montreal +440, Toronto -600
Over/Under: 50.5 (Over -110, Under -110)
Montreal Alouettes (12-7): The Montreal Alouettes have weathered a troubled offseason that saw the ownership of the team change hands and lost their 2022 star receiver, Eugene Lewis, and quarterback, Trevor Harris, to free agency. The Alouettes brought in Cody Fajardo to be their quarterback and also saw some new names to the CFL be a vital part of their offense such as Tyler Snead and Austin Mack in their receiving room.
The Alouettes defense has been exceptional this season allowing the fewest yards per pass attempt at 7.6 yards and the 2nd fewest passing touchdowns at 17. Montreal has lost a lot of man games on the defensive side of the ball, particularly at the linebacker position, and has seen the emergence of high-performing rookies such as linebacker Reggie Stubblefield and cornerback Kabion Ento. Montreal also made some key midseason additions to their defense such as Shawn Lemon at defensive end and Darnell Sankey at linebacker.
Toronto Argonauts (16-2): The Toronto Argonauts also saw their 2022 quarterback elect to play elsewhere as he chose to sign with the New Orleans Breakers in the USFL for the 2023 season to be closer to family. Thus the door was opened for Chad Kelly to be a CFL starter. Chad Kelly took full advantage and is the East Division nominee for Most Oustanding Player. The Argonauts have had a lot of success through the air yet are a team that has embraced the run game with AJ Ouellette being the East Division All-Star at running back and also has future hall of famer Andrew Harris contributing on the ground. Toronto has the third-most rush attempts in the league.
Additionally, Toronto’s defense has demonstrated strong run defense and has allowed the 2nd fewest yards per rush at 4.4 trailing only Ottawa who finished with a 4.3 average. Toronto has allowed only the third most points this season at 396 trailing close behind Montreal who gave up the 2nd fewest at 392.
Alouettes Keys to the Game
Limit the Run
“I think it’s a run game. It goes back to the run game. You know, we need to make sure we control the line of scrimmage defensively. And we need to make sure we are establishing a line of scrimmage offensively. I think it’s as simple as that.” Montreal Alouettes’ running back back Jeshrun Antwi stated when asked what the most vital part of Toronto’s game that Montreal needs to shut down to win the game.
“And, you know, play disciplined football like we have we have been this whole year. Have each other’s back, pick this game plan, and quite frankly, it’s going to be a good match. I’m excited about this one, because it’s an opportunity to go to the Grey Cup, you know. And you don’t know how many of these you’re going you’re going to get. So we’re looking forward to it, really.”
Toronto has been a team that frequently runs the football this season. Toronto presents more than 1 effective running back with AJ Ouellette who has rushed for over 1,000 yards and has a healthy 5.6 yards per carry and 8 touchdowns. Andrew Harris has missed time due to injury this season and has rushed 49 times with an average of 4.7 yards per carry. Harris has found a way to be impactful in the playoffs the last few seasons such as last year which saw him miss many weeks before the playoffs and rush for 55 yards on 10 carries in Toronto’s Grey Cup victory.
Run the Football, Attack the Line
Toronto has allowed only the 2nd most yards per rush attempt at 4.4. It is going to be essential for Montreal to continue mixing in run plays in addition to passing plays. At times Montreal has gone away from the ground game and has seen less efficiency in the pass game as well as a decrease in success in pass protection.
Last week against Hamilton Montreal ran the ball on roughly a third of their plays until the final minutes when they ran the ball. William Stanback finished the game with 95 yards on 18 carries. It was also a successful day in pass protection as Montreal allowed on 6 total pressures.
A Big Game From Fajardo, Utilize His Legs
Last week Fajardo ran for over 60 yards which was the first time he has done so since the 2021 West Division Semi-Finals. In the past what has made Cody Fajardo so dangerous as a quarterback was his ability to escape the pocket and gash defenses for big plays on the ground. This has largely not been as big of a part of his game over the past 2 seasons in large part due to the frequent injuries in 2022.
Fajardo seemed at times this season refinding himself as a quarterback following the offseason move to Montreal. At times Fajardo was not going through his progressions quickly or would lock on to the same receivers too frequently. Last week saw Fajardo do a pretty good job for the most part going through his progressions and this was in part reflected in the fact that the targets last week were more evenly distributed than what we have seen earlier in the season.
Defense Against the Pass Needs to Have Its Best Game Yet
Montreal’s defense has been very good through the air this season and has arguably been the team’s greatest area of strength. Toronto’s passing offense has arguably been the Argonauts’ greatest area of strength. For Montreal to win this game they will need to see a strong level of play continue from what has been the cornerstone of their success.
Montreal has seen strong play throughout the season from 2 rookie cornerbacks Kordell Rodgers and Kabion Ento. Tomorrow will be a strong test for Kabion Ento who is starting at cornerback. On the other side at cornerback, Montreal has Dionte Ruffin who also rarely allows a big play. At halfback, Ciante Evans and Wesley Sutton have also played well. Marc-Antoine Dequoy has been all over the field at safety and was recognized by Pro Football Focus as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player this season.
Argonauts Keys to The Game
Chad Kelly Needs to Be Exceptional
In the last 2 games against Montreal Kelly had good yardage but was limited to only 1 touchdown over both of those games. He also had a rushing touchdown over that span. Montreal’s pass defense has been excellent this season thus beating Montreal will likely require a continued level of excellence from Chad Kelly.
Smash Mouth Football
AJ Ouellette is known for his hard style of running and Toronto’s ability to run the football has been an essential component of their success. Montreal’s run defense has been better as of late but they did still finish the season tied with Edmonton in allowing the most yards per rush from their opponents. If Toronto is able to get an early lead against Montreal and continuously find success in their run game it will make for a very difficult football game for Montreal to win.
Try to Get Montreal to Abandon the Run
Montreal’s play-calling tendencies have been less likely to abandon the run in their last several games but at times Montreal has gone away from it resulting in a more predictable and less effective offense. If Toronto can get some early run stops they may be able to hope to get Montreal to stray from their game plan.
Get Pressure on Fajardo Without Allowing Him to Break Contain
Last week Cody Fajardo did a good job in the pocket under good protection and at times also did a good job escaping pressure and picking up yards on the ground. If Toronto can shorten the time he has to throw the football while limiting his ability to pick up field position with his legs it will be a recipe for a very difficult game for Fajardo.
Alouettes to Watch
QB Cody Fajardo
Last week Fajardo completed 15 of his 23 passes for 212 yards and 2 touchdowns with 1 interception. He also rushed 4 times for 62 yards in the East Semi-Finals.
RB William Stanback
Stanback rushed 18 times for 95 yards last week (5.3 average)
WR Austin Mack
Mack was the most targetted receiver for Montreal last week catching 3 of his 6 targets for 46 yards and a touchdown.
WR Tyler Snead
Snead finished with the 9th most YAC in the league with 376 despite limited usage earlier in the season. Snead finished with 56 catches for 788 yards and 5 touchdowns.
LT Nick Callender
Callender was recognized by Pro Football Focus as the top left tackle this season losing only 7.5% of his pass-blocking snaps.
DE Lwal Uguak
Uguak had 7 tackles last week, 2 QB hurries, a QB hit, 3 run stops, and 2 knockdowns.
DE Shawn Lemon
Lemon had 5 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 QB hurries, a run stop, and a stop against the pass last week.
LB Reggie Stubblefield
Stubblefield had 7 tackles last week, a QB hurry, 2 stops against the pass, assisted with a run stop, and knocked down 2 passes in the 4th quarter.
LB Tyrice Beverette
Beverette was a Divisional All-Star this season. Beverette had 89 tackles, 7 sacks, 4 passes defended, and a forced fumble.
HB Wesley Sutton
Sutton had a QB hurry and broke up a pass in the 2nd quarter last week.
CB Kabion Ento
Ento had a great breakup last week diving for the football in the first quarter and did not allow any big plays his way.
Argonauts to Watch
QB Chad Kelly
Kelly was recently recognized by Pro Football Focus as their selection for this season’s MOP. He had the longest yards per attempt at 10.5 and completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 4,123 yards and 23 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.
RB AJ Ouellette
Ouellette rushed 179 times this season for 1,009 yards (5.6 average) and 8 touchdowns.
WR Davaris Daniels
Daniels led the Argonauts in receiving yards catching 52 passes for 1,009 yards and 8 touchdowns. Daniels had 3 touchdowns and 180 yards in week 10 against Ottawa.
WR Damonte Coxie
Coxie caught 39 passes for 787 yards and 5 touchdowns this season.
WR David Ungerer III
Ungerer caught 41 passes for 579 yards and 3 touchdowns this season.
RT Dejon Allen
According to Pro Football Focus Allen allowed only 14 total pressures and 2 sacks all season and was beaten on only 5.5% of his pass-blocking snaps giving him the highest mark among tackles in that metric.
DE Folarin Orimolade
Orimolade is a game wrecker. He had 36 tackles, 10 sacks and 2 forced fumbles this season. According to PFF he had 66 total pressures this season and won on 16.1% of his pass-rush snaps.
LB Wynton McManis
McManis had 79 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 interceptions, 3 passes defended, and 2 touchdowns this season.
LB Adarius Pickett
Pickett led the team in tackles with 105 and also had 6 sacks, 6 passes defended, and a forced fumble this season.
CB Qwan’tez Stiggers
Stiggers had 53 tackles, 5 interceptions, and 5 passes defended this season.
CB Jamal Peters
Peters had 32 tackles, 4 interceptions, 5 passes defended, and 2 forced fumbles this season.
I believe Montreal has gotten only a fraction of the respect that they deserve. Montreal is an 11-win team yet is often excluded from talks regarding who the top CFL teams are. The Alouettes have been playing very good football as of late and the Argonauts had an interesting stretch to close out their season having clinched first in the division so early in the season.
In September I predicted Montreal to win this game 31 to 24 in overtime and I am standing by that prediction.
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