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CFL Week 15 Preview/Prediction: Toronto Argonauts (10-1) @ Montreal Alouettes (6-6)

Week 15 of the CFL 2023 season sees the Toronto Argonauts with an opportunity to claim the East Division and host the Eastern Final for the third year in a row at BMO Field on Saturday, November 11. However, the defending CFL champs are headed to Montreal for a belly-to-belly rematch with a vengeful Alouettes team looking to snap a three-game losing streak.

CFL Week 15: Toronto Argonauts (10-1) @ Montreal Alouettes (6-6), Friday, September 15, Percival-Molson Memorial Stadium, 7 PM ET, TSN/CFL+

Point Spread: Argonauts favored by 6.5

Over/Under: 52.5

Weather Forecast: Partly cloudy during the evening. Low 12C. Light Winds.

CFL Week 15: Argonauts @ Alouettes Game Notes

  • If the Argos win their third and final 2023 regular season matchup against Montreal, they will claim the East title and host the Eastern Final at BMO Field on November 11. It would be Toronto’s third straight East Final at home.
  • If the Argonauts were to lose on Friday night. The second potential playoff-clinching scenario this weekend will see Toronto clinch a home playoff date if Hamilton loses to Winnipeg on Saturday.
  • With a victory this week, Toronto would clinch its third straight division title. The team has managed this feat on two previous occasions: 1982-84 and 1920-22.
  • The Toronto Argonauts have never been 11-1 to start a season in their 150-year history. Last week, the 2023 Argos matched the football club’s previous best starting mark set in 1996.
  • Toronto has won their last two games in Montreal. Prior to that, the Argos hadn’t beaten the Alouettes in their building since 2015.
  • Since 2019, the Argos are 5-4 against the Alouettes. Seven of those nine games were decided in the last three minutes of play. Including an East-clinching 24-23 victory in Montreal last October, which saw Toronto win the game at the final gun on a missed Boris Bede field goal turned single.
  • Montreal is 0-6 against the CFL’s top three teams, Winnipeg, Toronto, and British Columbia. They are 6-0 against the rest of the league.

Toronto Argonauts Week 15 Injury Report/Depth Chart

For Toronto, defensive back Robertson Daniel (ankle) and wide receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. (hip) didn’t practice all week and won’t be available on Friday night. Wide receiver Cam Phillips (groin) also missed practices and is out as well.

Robertson Daniel and Kurleigh Gittens have both been placed on the six-game injured list.

Mason Pierce gets the start in place of Robertson Daniel at halfback. Jamie Harry is active to provide depth at cornerback.

On offence, the Argos are starting three Canadians on one side at wide receiver. Dejon Brissett and Tommy Nield will man the slotback positions, while David Ungerer III works on the outside.

On special teams, Toronto will once again have Boris Bede assuming punt and kicking duties.

Montreal Alouettes Week 15 Injury Report/Depth Chart

The Alouettes are much healthier in Week 15 than they were a week ago. Defensive backs Wesley Sutton (head) and Dionte Ruffin (hip) return to the lineup after missing last week’s contest. Also returning for the Als on defence is linebacker Avery Williams (elbow).

Making his CFL 2023 regular season debut for Montreal is the CFL’s leading tackler from a season ago. Star linebacker Darnell Sankey, who is coming off a starring turn in the XFL with Bob Stoops championship Renegades.

Offensively, Montreal gets back WR Kaion Julien-Grant into their lineup. Running back William Stanback (hand) sat throughout the week, and is available but will sit for Walter Fletcher.

Wide receiver Reggie White Jr. (knee) and offensive lineman Sean Jamieson (knee) are ruled out for the game.

Keys To An Argos Victory

Expect Montreal to sell out against the run on Friday. The Alouettes are getting reinforcements back on defence, which should help them. But they have struggled mightily to stop Toronto’s rushing attack this season.

Big plays should be available down the field for Toronto behind Montreal’s aggressive safeties, who have a propensity to cheat toward the line of scrimmage to defend the run.

A heavy dose of play action on first downs with success exploiting an over-committed run defence will keep the Als honest and guessing. Toronto had success last week challenging Montreal’s young defensive backs; any man coverage with a loaded box invites double moves on the outside for the Argos receivers.

Defensively, Toronto has to guard against the big play, particularly with their secondary missing two of its best deep defenders in Robertson Daniel and DaShaun Amos. Toronto caught a break last week when Montreal deep threat Austin Mack punched his ticket out of action during an early game ejection.

Now that the Als have Mack, presumably back for a full game and a returning Kaion Julien-Grant. They have the weapons to strike downfield. Toronto’s pass rush needs to get to Cody Fajardo before he has a chance to find openings in the seams.

Keys To An Alouettes Victory

Montreal has to start fast. They can’t afford to fall behind multiple scores to Toronto, as they did last week. Otherwise, the Alouettes will have the style of play dictated to them again by the Double Blue.

It’s imperative that the Als don’t stumble out the blocks early. Montreal’s offence must remain balanced, but for that to happen, they need to flip the script and get Toronto in trail mode for a change.

The Alouettes need to open up their ground game by going on the attack down the field. Toronto is trotting out two inexperienced players on the back end of their secondary.

As a result, There are bound to be deep-ball opportunities. Montreal has been way too conservative in their last two meetings against Toronto. Having big play success in the passing game will open up space for the run and short passes.

Defensively, Montreal has to sell out to stop the run on first down. The Alouettes have struggled to slow down A.J. Ouellette. Toronto’s star runner has averaged over six yards per rush against the Als.

Once Ouellette gets to the second level, he’s unstoppable. The key is getting to him in the backfield before he picks up steam. Montreal can accomplish that by sending free blitzers on first down.

The goal has to be to get Toronto’s offence into second and long situations.

Chad Kelly’s strengths as a deep ball passer show up on film when opposing defenses try to keep one safety deep in coverage, thereby forcing their defensive backs to play man-to-man. Kelly is a man-beater.

Since college, Chad Kelly’s weakness has been his propensity to force passes into tight coverage and zones. Most of Kelly’s interceptions have come when teams play three-deep to eliminate those throws with second-level defenders shifting at the snap. The Alouettes need to force Kelly to throw underneath and over the middle of the field into zone coverage.

A simplistic defensive scheme will not deter Chad Kelly. It hasn’t so far in the CFL.

CFL Week 15: Argos-Alouettes Prediction

The Argonauts have a grand opportunity to lock up everything as they sail toward the final six games of their regular season. It’s a rare accomplishment, being able to cinch up a “win, and you’re in” the Grey Cup scenario two months in advance.

Toronto will be highly motivated to seal the deal on Friday night. However, this might be their stiffest challenge to date.

After all, The Argonauts are attempting to beat Montreal for the third time this season in a back-to-back scenario on the road. That’s always a difficult endeavor for any CFL team. On top of that, they are facing a highly motivated and desperate team that is healthier than they were a week ago. On the flip side, Toronto is coming into this game without two of their best receivers and a makeshift secondary.

Who knows? This might not be the last meeting between the Alouettes and Argos in 2023. The two rivals could meet again for the second year in a row in the East Final on November 11th. But if there ever was a time for Montreal to rise up and beat Toronto. It’s now.

Montreal Alouettes 31 Toronto Argonauts 29

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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