The Montreal Alouettes travel to Ottawa to take on the RedBlacks on Saturday afternoon. Shawn Lemon is closing in on his 100th career sack after collecting his 98th and 99th sack last week against Calgary. Both teams are coming off wins last week which saw Montreal snap a 4-game losing streak and Ottawa snap a 7-game losing streak.
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Date/Location: Saturday, September 30 /TD Place, Ottawa, ON
Kickoff Time: 4:00 PM ET, 1 PM PT
Channel: TSN (Canada), CFL+ (USA, International)
Spread: Montreal -2.5 (-105), Ottawa +2.5 (-115)
Moneyline: Montreal -130, Ottawa +110
Over/Under: 47.5 (Over -110, Under -110)
Montreal Alouettes (6-7): The Montreal Alouettes have gone 0-7 against the top 3 teams in the CFL in games against Toronto, BC, and Winnipeg. On the flip side, they are 7-0 against everyone else. Montreal defeated the Calgary Stampeders on the road 28-11. Montreal limited Jake Maier to 7.3 yards per pass attempt and for the 2nd time this season had 2 interceptions against Calgary. Montreal did allow 105 rushing yards on the 13 carries from Ka’Deem Carey and Dedrick Mills (8 yards per attempt combined).
Ottawa RedBlacks (4-10): The Ottawa RedBlacks are coming off a 36-28 win at home over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The RedBlacks are a far better team than their record and recently snapped 7-game losing streak would suggest. Ahead of the game last week Ottawa had 12 of their games decided within the final 3 minutes of the game. Ottawa leads the league in rushing yards averaging 136 yards per game. Ottawa has averaged 394 yards in total offense over their last 3 games. Ottawa has allowed the most yards per pass attempt so far this season at 10.1 yards on average while being the second-best in rushing yards per attempt allowed at 4.1 yards on average.
Alouettes Keys to the Game
Montreal had a successful day of pass protection last week against Calgary. Montreal has allowed the most sacks in the league so far this season with 50 allowed. Last week they did not allow any. Justin Lawrence, Pier-Olivier Lestage, and Philippe Gagnon were all named among the top 10 for Pro Football Focus’s Pass Blocking Grades last week. None of Calgary’s defensive linemen were listed in the top 10 of PFF’s pass-rushing grades.
This week is a big test for the Alouettes as Ottawa has a strong pass-rushing unit. Bryce Carter is coming off of a 3-sack performance against Saskatchewan and has 11 sacks on the season. Lorenzo Mauldin IV has frequently been listed among PFF’s weekly top 10 pass-rushing defensive linemen. Mauldin has 4 sacks this season. Cleyon Laing and Michael Wakefield have also frequently made the list both of whom have 5 sacks this season.
Keep Running the Football
Montreal has played their best football offensively this season when they are consistently mixing in run plays. The passing game is more successful and the pass protection is more reliable. Last week we saw Wiliam Stanback rush 14 times for 81 yards, an average of 8.7 yards per carry. Ottawa is a much tougher run-stopping team than Calgary so this will be a strong test for the Alouettes run game. Ottawa has allowed 4.1 yards per carry against which is the 2nd best in the league.
Stop the Run
Ottawa has been one of the stronger rushing teams this season. Ottawa has run the ball more than any other team so far this season and is third in average yards per rush at 5.5. Ottawa has consistently played with a commitment to the run game and if Montreal cannot stop the run they could very well lose both of these next 2 games to Ottawa and find their chances of making the playoffs in jeopardy.
Montreal’s run defense has not had a banner year as they have allowed 5.7 yards per rush attempt. Edmonton and Calgary’s 5.9 yards per rush allowed is last in the league. Montreal has had many key injuries to their linebacking group with the loss of Najee Murray for the season and Avery Williams missing 7 games due to injury. Montreal bolstered its linebacker group with the recent addition of Darnell Sankey.
Montreal needs more consistent run-stopping in order to realistically have a shot at the Grey Cup. One way or another the East Division Champion is playing in Toronto on November 11. East is going through Toronto. Toronto has run the football on 45% of their plays so far this season and has the fewest pass attempts in the league.
Contain the Cookie Monster
It’s not talked about how dangerous Dustin Crum is with his legs. 2 weeks ago he scored 3 rushing touchdowns against the BC Lions. With a quarterback like Crum, it’s essential to contain him and not let him escape for outside runs. With Dustin Crum sometimes a good pass rush opens the door for Crum to pick up a big gain on the ground if he is not properly contained. Dustin Crum leads the CFL in rushing yards among quarterbacks with 620 and also has 9 rushing touchdowns.
A Big Game from the Alouettes Receivers
The Ottawa RedBlacks have been susceptible to the pass this season and have allowed the most yards per pass attempt at 10.1 on average. Cody Fajardo could be poised to have a big game against Ottawa but he may need to be getting rid of the ball quickly against Ottawa’s pass rush. The Alouettes will be without Austin Mack due to a thigh injury and will need other receivers to step up.
Alouettes to Watch
RB William Stanback
Stanback is coming off of a strong performance against Calgary and has a tough test coming up against a good run-stopping team. Stanback has an average of 5.3 yards per carry rushing for 688 yards on 127 carries so far.
WR Tyler Snead
Snead is 2nd in receiving yards for the Alouettes as he caught 40 passes for 583 yards and 5 touchdowns in 11 games.
WR Tyson Philpot
Philpot led the Alouettes in receiving yards again last week with 4 catches for 87 yards. He now has 347 yards in 8 games.
WR Kaion Julien-Grant
Julien-Grant has 34 catches for 490 yards in 7 games. He missed a lot of time due to a hand injury but is back in the lineup for his second straight game.
DE Shawn Lemon
Lemon is coming off a 2 sack performance against Calgary and is 1 sack away from his 100th career sack.
LB Darnell Sankey
Sankey had the 10th-highest run defense grade by PFF last week among linebackers. Sankey led the team in tackles last week with 10.
LB Avery Williams
Last week Avery Williams had the 5th highest run run defence grade among linebackers by Pro Football focus. Williams had 2 tackles last week.
CB Dionte Ruffin
Ruffin had the 6th highest PFF coverage grade last week. He also had 4 tackles last week.
S Marc-Antoine Dequoy
Dequoy had an interception last week, a fumble recovery, and 6 tackles. He also was the highest-graded defensive back last week by Pro Football Focus.
RedBlacks to Watch
QB Dustin Crum
Dustin Crum has been a great storyline this season after beginning the year as the 4th quarterback on the pecking order behind Jeremiah Masolia, Nick Arbuckle, and Tyrie Adams. The Cookie Monster has completed 201 of his 287 passes (70%) for 2,334 yards and 7 touchdowns with 7 interceptions. He has also added 620 rushing yards and 9 rushing touchdowns.
RB Devonta Williams
Williams has rushed 137 times for 757 yards (5.5 average) and a touchdown over 11 games played. He is coming off a big performance last week in which he rushed 22 times for 136 yards.
WR Jaelon Acklin
Acklin had 5 catches for 66 yards last week for Ottawa. The 2022 East Division All-Star had a bit of a slower start to the season but has worked his way up to 709 receiving yards.
WR Justin Hardy
Hardy leads the RedBlacks in receiving yards with 70 catches for 747 yards and 2 touchdowns.
DE Bryce Carter
Leads the RedBlacks in sacks with 11 and also has 26 tackles and a forced fumble.
CB Brandin Dandridge
Dandridge has 21 tackles, a forced fumble, 7 passes defended, and 4 interceptions, 2 of which he returned for a touchdown.
Injuries, Depth Chart Changes From Last Week:
Montreal will be without league-leading receiver Austin Mack this week.
This week we will see many players dress for their first game as an Alouette including wide receivers James Letcher JR. (Washburn), Shedler Fervius (Saint Mary’s), defensive end T.D. Moultry (Auburn), and cornerback Dishon McNary (Central Michigan).
Kabion Ento is back starting at cornerback as Kordell Rodgers is out with a foot injury.
We will see James Letcher Jr. handle the returns as Chandler Worthy is out with an ankle injury.
Jamal Davis II has been released by Montreal and has since signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Davis stated on Twitter that he had asked to be released.
Vincent Desjardins is listed on the 1 game injured list.
(Redblacks depth chart not yet posted. Will update when it is.)
I predict the Ottawa RedBlacks to win at home this weekend 24-30.
This is based on the pattern previously displayed in which the Alouettes abandon the run when their opponent is defending well against it and the offense tends to play less efficiently as a whole. I suspect we may see this happen again this weekend but ultimately lead to a stronger Alouettes team as a whole that more fully embraces smash-mouth football thus making them more well-suited for the landscape of the 2023 CFL Playoffs.
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