The Redblacks played a great game against arguably the best team in the CFL this past week. The defending Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts have lost just one game all season long so far. After back-to-back road losses, Ottawa returns home to defend their house against the Alouettes who are starting to build momentum.
Montreal Provides Ottawa With Anther Tough Match-Up
Montreal currently stands 5-3, while Ottawa has slipped to 3-6. They are 3-1 against the East division, while Ottawa is now 0-4. Montreal has proven they can beat their divisional opponents time and again, while Ottawa has struggled against the teams they should know best.
It doesn’t help that Ottawa has posted a 2-2 record at home this season. Playing host to Montreal this week will seemingly not result in much of an advantage in this game. While Ottawa has played one more game than Montreal, they have also scored just 8 more points. Ottawa is currently averaging 23 points per game, having scored a total of 207 points. Montreal has scored 199 points averaging 24.9 points per game.
On the flip side of that coin, the Montreal defense has allowed just 155 points second least in the league, an average of just 19.4 points per game. The Ottawa defense however has given up 228 points or 25.3 points. Something has to give in this game, either Ottawa’s defense needs to step up and prevent Montreal from scoring 25 points or more, or the Ottawa offense needs a big day point wise. Montreal’s stiff defense may have something to say about Ottawa putting points up in bunches.
Passing Game Problems?
While Dustin Crum has been the talk of the town for Ottawa, currently they stand in 9th place in passing yards producing just over 200 yards per game. Meanwhile they lead the league in total rushing yards with 1,104 yards or 122.7 yards per game. Montreal has averaged 253.3 yards per game through the air, and 105.4 on the ground this season, or about 20 yards per game more than Ottawa as a team.
These defensive units could be the key to this game. If Montreal can keep up what they’ve managed to do this season, and hold Ottawa under 20 points, the Redblacks will be in for a long day, and another heartbreaking loss. If Ottawa wants to avoid this loss, they better find a way to defend the pass and quickly. Currently Ottawa leads the league in run defense, and is last in the league in passing defense.
Allowing an average of 326 yards passing per game, the defensive unit has allowed just 68.3 yards per game on the ground. Being able to stop the run is important, however its clear opposing offenses are just choosing to throw the ball rather than face their vaunted run defense repeatedly. They have faced the second most passing attempts in the league, while only seeing the 5th most running plays. Allowing a 66.3% completion rate is not sustainable at any level, especially if you expect to win games.
I expect Montreal to come into this game and follow the script that has been blatantly laid out in front of them. Pass first, and pass often, while mixing in the run game only to keep some semblance of balance to the offense and keep the defense respecting the run the entire game. With Dandridge not returning this week, the Ottawa defense needs some of these other players to step up and take a leadership role this week. Leading by example, Alonzo Addae might be the guy to look to for Ottawa in their time of need.
Special Teams Sure to Play a Part
Anytime you are facing a Bob Dyce-led team you can expect sound special teams play. Currently Lewis Ward leads the league in field goals made with 27. Richie Leone ranks third with 6 puts inside the 10 yard line, and has managed the second most yards per punt so far this season with a 48.7 average. Lewis Ward is second in points scored by a special teams player with 93, he stands just two points out of first place. While the kick return game doesn’t see its return men on the top 3 lists, it’s likely more due to splitting time at the position due to injury than anything. Both Dandridge, and Harris have been explosive, and Dandridge even managed to make a couple house calls before going down with an injury.
For all the success Ottawa has on special teams, Montreal isn’t in the same boat. In fact their only bragging rights in this area is holding the highest net punt average, which likely has more to do with a solid coverage team, than it does an unbelievable punter. Averaging 40.3, Leone is just .7 yards out of a tie for first place currently. I expect that gap to close in this game.
Keys to Victory for Ottawa
As you can tell this is a fairly lopsided match-up with Montreal looking overall like the more well-rounded team. Other than special teams, the Redblacks had no real clear cut advantage to speak of. Missing Dandridge is a huge blow this week once again. Despite missing games, he still stands second in the league in interceptions, and is third in the league with kick return touchdowns. That’s a huge loss for this defense.
- First key to victory, is tighten up this pass defense. Dandridge will not play…oh well, this is professional football and it’s time someone other than Dandridge steps up and starts making big time plays. Whether that’s the veteran Addae who has a couple ints this year already, or another younger player remains to be seen. Regardless allowing over 320 yards passing on average is one of the easiest way to paint yourself into the picture of being a losing team.
- Continue to stuff the run. Keep up the strong run defense, forcing teams to become one dimensional and essentially tell you what they will do. Defense should in theory become that much easier when you can expect a team to abandon the run game and focus on the pass. However it will require these Ottawa Pass Rushers to get home and hit the quarterback early and often. The more pressure produced, the higher chance of errant throws turning into interceptions.
- Force Fajardo into mistakes. Currently Cody Fajardo has thrown just 6 touchdowns to 5 interceptions showing a tendency over his career to force passes, and give the ball away. The defense MUST take advantage of these passes and create turnovers if they hope to win this game. They say defense wins championships, and it’s time this defense proves what it could be.
- Get Dustin Crum going early. He seems to do well with comeback routes, and crossers, routes he can see come open and throw to a spot. If that’s what he is good at, run it until the Alouettes begin to stop it, or Crum chews up their defense. Whichever comes first, don’t adjust until absolutely necessary.
- RUN THE BALL. Continue to give Crum a run game to lean on and open up the play action passing game, another way to buy Crum time in the pocket, and further freeze the defense.
With three different defensive backs out of this game, as well as Gary Johnson Jr, and Frankie Griffin, this defense is certainly not working with a full deck of cards heading into week 11. The unfortunate part about these lingering injuries, is that the Redblacks really can’t afford to keep losing games if they want to make the playoffs for the first time in years. Bob Dyce and company’s jobs might depend on a trip to the playoffs after back-to-back losing seasons under Paul LaPolice, and much of the same coaching staff we see today. Still not having Bralon Addison is a big time issue as well. Addison was billed as an explosive addition to the offense, and so far, he hasn’t even seen the field for Ottawa. If it isn’t next week will we see him at all this season?
Betting Odds and Prediction
Well last week Vegas had Ottawa ranked as a ten point underdog against the Argos. In this game we are looking at a much closer match-up according to the experts. A 1.5 point spread is all that separates these two teams in this game. One has to wonder if this spread is affected by a couple points due to the fact that Ottawa is the home team. With Montreal favored by 1.5 points, the money line is set at +105 for Ottawa and -125 for Montreal. The Over/Under is 47 points. Since opening the betting has actually slid more to the Ottawa side. Originally Montreal was favored by 2.5 points, with their money line -145, and the over/under 47.5 points.
Regardless of the small slide, I think Ottawa will play another hard fought game, but ultimately lose this one by just 3 points. A last second walk off field goal wouldn’t shock me in this game.
Montreal 27-24 Ottawa
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