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CFL: Toronto Argonauts @ Montreal Alouettes Week 20 Preview/Prediction

The penultimate week of the CFL regular season sees the East Division crown at stake as the 10-6 Toronto Argonauts travel to Quebec to square off this Saturday afternoon with the 8-8 Montreal Alouettes. The Argos, winners of six of their last seven games, meet an Alouettes team that has won six of their last eight games.

For Montreal, Saturday’s contest is an all-or-nothing endeavor. A victory will set the stage for a one-off showdown to claim the East at Toronto in the final week of the regular season. An Als’ loss will net the Boatmen their second straight Eastern title and a home game in the East Final on November 13th.

CFL Week 20 Preview: Toronto Argonauts @ Montreal Alouettes

  • Location: Percival-Molson Memorial Stadium, Montreal, Quebec
  • Date: Saturday, October 22nd, 2022
  • Kickoff: 4 pm ET
  • Betting Line: Argos favored by 1.5, Total Points: 48.5
  • Weather: Sunny, Light Wind at 6 to 10 MPH.

The script for Week 20’s Toronto-Montreal game is a unique one featuring two teams who have had a lot of unique twists and turns this season.

The Argonauts and Alouettes are entirely different teams from the last time they clashed back in Week 2. A game that saw the Argos squeak by the Als 20-19 at home on a missed 20-yard field goal by David Cote in the closing seconds.

Both teams have undergone several shifts and changes since June 16th. However, no team in the CFL reshuffled the deck more than Montreal did, jettisoning away their opening-day head coach (Khari Jones) and starting quarterback (Vernon Adams).

The early returns on the Danny Maciocia-Trevor Harris tandem weren’t that promising. After all, Montreal was 2-6 nearing the midway point of their season.

On the flip side, Toronto also had a losing record entering midseason. The Boatmen were 4-5 after nine games. An injury-plagued roster that was struggling to find consistency.

Flash forward to today, and while it hasn’t always been pretty. Montreal and Toronto have played winning football in the second half of the season to put themselves in an advantageous position to challenge for a Grey Cup. However, the Als and Argonauts stand directly in each other’s path to achieving that goal.

Theoretically, the Argos and Alouettes could play one another three times in the next four weeks. And the kicker is that each team may have to beat the other multiple times. In Montreal’s case, to win the division and host the Eastern final. They need to best the Boatmen in back-to-back games. To that, the french may say Ce n’est pas la mer à boire.

Maybe it’s not as difficult as it appears on paper. But the pressure is squarely on the Alouettes shoulders to win this week. Next week’s finale against the Argos will be meaningless if they don’t. But if the Als win at home, all the pressure will shift to Toronto next week on their home field.

CFL Week 20: Toronto Argonauts Depth Chart

The big surprise coming into this game is the deactivation of DB Chris Edwards. The 2021 CFL All-Star had been playing at cornerback in recent weeks. Edwards is a late scratch, and has been placed on the one-game injured list. Tarvarus McFadden will return to his regular duties starting on the outside opposite Jamal Peters. No official word on the reason behind Edwards absence. He wasn’t listed with an injury prior to this game. It’s a tough blow for Toronto losing one of their best players before its biggest game of the season.

  • Update: Sources close to the team are saying that Chris Edwards is banged up, and is being held out for precautionary reasons. It’s not a discipline situation. The decision to sit Edwards was a last minute one.

Ryan Hunter makes his first official CFL start at left guard. Hunter has played an increasing amount of snaps each week, transitioning from the NFL to the Canadian game.

Despite being limited during the week, DT Shawn Oakman (shoulder) is a go. So is DB Maurice Carnell IV, who comes off the six-game injured list early to resume his ball-hawking duties in the secondary. He will help replace Robert Priester, who is out with a concussion sustained in Week 19.

After missing Week 19, RT Dejon Allen and WR Brandon Banks are back in the lineup. Both are in the starting position chart.

CFL Week 20: Montreal Alouettes Depth Chart

Montreal is relatively healthy heading into their matchup with Toronto. The Alouettes will be without defensive back, Zach Lindley. At the same time, receiver Reggie White Jr. (knee) and offensive lineman Sean Jamieson (knee) will have their respective injuries keep them out again this week. David Brown will again make the start at Centre in place of Sean Jamieson.

CFL Week 20: Keys To The Argos Alouettes Game

William Stanback returned to the Alouettes lineup three weeks ago. But is he all the way back yet? A week ago, against Ottawa, Stanback started showing brief glimpses of his former self late in that game. He finished the evening with nine carries for 38 yards and a score. But with his legs underneath him and some added rest after playing last Friday. Montreal is hoping that their star runner brings his A game against Toronto.

Stanback’s running mate, Walter Fletcher, has picked up his level of play significantly. A week ago, He averaged seven yards per rush last week. And contributed five receptions for sixty yards and a touchdown.

Toronto’s defence has had issues against the run in recent weeks. Particuarly with weakside linebacker Wynton McManis out of the lineup. Montreal will look to exploit this area with their two talented running backs. Linebackers Jonathan Jones and Shaq Richardson will be tested in space and on the ground.

Establishing the run could set up easy completions for the ultra-efficient Trevor Harris, who unsurprisingly is leading all current starting CFL pivots in pass accuracy (71.3%). Much focus will be on Eugene Lewis against Jamal Peters and the Argos secondary. But the recent emergence of players like rookie Tyson Philpot could make the difference in this one. The absence of one of Toronto’s best defensive playmakers in Chris Edwards is a positive for Montreal’s passing attack.

Defensively, an area that Montreal will look to exploit against Toronto is their pass protection. It;s improved recently but the Argonauts have allowed the third most sacks in the CFL (42). Opposing teams have had success challenging Toronto to throw the ball down the field by blitzing and creating confusion up front, and Montreal could look to do the same. The timing of the Argos’ pass-heavy offence under McLeod Bethel-Thompson has had issues due to leaky pass protection. And Toronto’s talented intermediate receivers have struggled to make plays down the field. Defenses game plan against the Argos with full knowledge of these struggles.

Under former Als’ coordinator Mickey Donovan, Toronto’s special team’s coverage has improved dramatically since their meltdown earlier in the season against Lawrence Woods and the Ticats. But there’s no doubt that former Argo Chandler Worthy has a lot of extra incentive to stick it to his former team.

Montreal has always been a tough place for Toronto to play. A year ago, the Argos were obliterated by the Alouettes 37-16 at Molson in a similar situation. The last time the Argonauts won at Montreal during the regular season was in 2015. Back then, Trevor Harris was an Argo, and Henoc Muamba was picking him off for the Alouettes.

The Boatmen need to avoid a slow start offensively this Saturday, which has been a regular occurrence this season. Falling behind early on the road against an amped-up Montreal team could be a challenging hole to dig out of.

To avoid a fall-behind scenario, the Argos need to convert on second downs. Montreal’s defence has surrendered the most first downs in the league (352). A significant reason is that the Alouettes have allowed the second-most first downs on the ground (122). Toronto is a predominant passing team. But can they show enough patience to lean on their ground game to extend drives?

The Argos’ defence has allowed the fewest majors in the CFL and has forced the most turnovers this season (43). It’s been a recipe for Toronto’s overall success, and the team has a plus-eight turnover ratio. Can Corey Mace’s unit force seasoned veteran Trevor Harris into mistakes, something he commonly doesn’t do?

One thing that Montreal does have in common with Toronto is that they have also allowed 42 sacks this season. It’s not in the Argonauts’ defensive DNA to send extra rushers at the quarterback. The Argos’ defence has the fewest sacks in the CFL (32). But in recent weeks, the added pressure sent by the Argonauts’ defence has produced big turnovers. Perhaps, Toronto will sell out more against the run and pass in this game.

Argonauts @ Alouettes Prediction

The schedule markers got this one right. The only way for either of these teams to win their division is by beating their rivals head-on. No backdoor options or getting assistance from another team. To truly lay claim to the Eastern crown. You have to beat your direct competitor for that throne. It’s fitting.

The Alouettes and Argonauts are truly a tale of two different teams. Stylistically, they are very different. It makes for an interesting clash on Saturday.

It seems like all season long; onlookers have had great difficulty deducing the quality of Montreal and Toronto’s teams. In light of this fact, both the Argos’ and Alouettes’ successes have been greatly minimized. But the fact that both teams are in this position speaks of their achievements.

The urgency factor in this game is on Montreal’s side. They have to win. Toronto is not in must win territory. The Alouettes at home, are going to give the Argonauts their best shot. They have had two extra days to prepare for this game.

Therefore, on Saturday, I think the Alouettes live to fight another day by besting the Boatmen and keeping their Eastern division hopes alive.

Prediction: Montreal Alouettes 23 Toronto Argonauts 20

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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