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State Of The Argos As They Head Toward What Amounts To A Double Bye Week

The 2022 East division champion Argos have one game left on their 2022 regular season schedule. This coming Saturday afternoon at home against the Alouettes. In what now amounts to nothing more than a glorified preseason game.

In fact, for the first time since 1996, the entire CFL playoff picture is completely crystalized, with one whole week of games still left to be played.

By virtue of clinching the East and earning a home playoff game in the East Final on November 13th by beating Montreal 24-23 this past weekend. The 11-6 Toronto Argonauts have bought themselves valuable time before their next must-win game. One victory at home in November will net the Boatmen a trip to the Grey Cup.

The position earned by Toronto can be a blessing and a curse, as evidenced by what transpired to the Argonauts last year.

Deja Vu For The Double Blue

Toronto was in this exact same position a year ago. Winning the East with a week left to play. They took what appeared to be the correct approach at the time. The Argonauts rested starters and critical backups against Edmonton in 2021 and then waited for the winner between Hamilton and Montreal in the East Final.

Argonaut fans know how that movie ended, and 2022 seems to be following an eerily similar script to 2021. Will the Ti-Cats be back at BMO in the East Final to break Toronto’s hearts again?

Some people within the Argos football club felt that taking their foot off the gas pedal a season ago was, in hindsight, a mistake.

How Will The Argos Decide To Approach Week 21?

That’s the dilemma facing Double Blue in Week 21. Toronto has won 7 of their last eight games. It hasn’t always been pretty. But for better or worse, the Argos’ record is the best in the CFL during the second half of the season. Should the Argonauts keep the momentum going rather than pressing the pause button?

There are many questions about how Toronto should approach this Saturday against the Alouettes.

On the one hand, there is nothing at stake for the Argos. So why risk injuring any key players? Sure, it would be nice for McLeod Bethel-Thompson to eclipse 5,000 yards passing on the season. MBT currently leads the league with 4,731 yards and is 269 yards away from accomplishing 5K.

But in the grand scheme of things. Individual stats don’t matter.

From an overall team standpoint, Toronto hasn’t won 12 games in a regular season since the days of CFL legend Doug Flutie. But again, this particular achievement pales in comparison to the overall task at hand.

Playing to win would be a noble course of action in Week 21. But even Montreal will likely take the same starter resting approach this weekend as they prepare for Hamilton in the Semi-Final.

If your favorite flavor is Vanilla, that’s exactly what you will get on Saturday. Neither team is going to show their hands. Because the Boatmen and Als fully realize that they could meet again in two weeks. So even if starters were to play some, there would be very little importance placed on performance.

The 2022 Argos have accomplished many things they haven’t achieved in years past. Besides winning their division two years in a row for the first time since 96/97. The Boatmen won games on the road in Montreal, Saskatchewan, and Edmonton for the first time in several years.

But for the 2022 season to be deemed a success, none of this will matter unless the Argos can right the wrong of last year’s finish in the East Final and get to the Grey Cup. Otherwise, Toronto’s accomplishments will be washed away.

Fair or unfair, that’s the reality. It’s also why making sure the Argos are at full strength for the East Final takes on more importance than going all out in a preseason-like game this Saturday.

Chad Kelly Time In Toronto?

Even if the Argos decide to start McLeod Bethel-Thompson this week, the likelihood is that Chad Kelly will see his most extensive CFL playing time this Saturday against Montreal. It will make for a more enticing headline if Chad Kelly gets his first start in Canada.

To this point, the CFL rookie Kelly has carved out a role as the Argos’ short-yardage specialist on QB sneaks. Chad Kelly has 19 rushes for 102 yards and has scored five touchdowns on the season. Passing-wise, he’s only attempted ten passes in spot duty late in blowout games. Kelly is 3 of 10 for 33 yards and two interceptions.

The anti-MBT crowd could finally get their wish and see Chad Kelly lead Toronto’s offence in Week 21. Just not in the way they had anticipated.

No matter the state of Saturday’s game. A rookie like Kelly can greatly benefit from getting real game action as a pivot in the CFL. It’s quite the learning curve. But maybe one day, Kelly can successfully make the transition the way McLeod Bethel-Thompson has.

Is Andrew Harris Returning For The Argos?

Is Andrew Harris done for the season due to a torn pec injury? Maybe not.

The well-kept secret of Andrew Harris and the Argos returning to play in the playoffs is out in the open now. In case you missed it, during the Alouettes-Argos telecast on TSN. Sideline reporter Matthew Scianitti revealed that Andrew Harris hopes to get clearance from doctors for the East Final.

Doctors will evaluate Harris to see if he can get clearance to play. The future first-ballot CFL Hall of Famer has been by the Boatmen’s side on the sidelines/meetings/practices for their entire season since he fell to injury. Harris has played a mentor/coach role for Double Blue.

One step at a time, but a Harris return could complicate matters with A.J. Ouellette on a tear in recent weeks. How would Ryan Dinwiddie and his staff decide to divvy up playing time between an all-time great coming off an injury and one of the team’s most valuable players during a 7-1 stretch?

The Boatmen will cross that bridge if they get there.

It’s a good problem to have heading to the East Final. It would be hard not to lean on Andrew Harris, one of the most clutch playoff performers in CFL history. Imagine that? Perhaps this is putting the cart way ahead of the horse. But a scenario where Andrew Harris heads to the Grey Cup to face The Winnipeg Blue Bombers would make for some high drama.

Other Returning Argos

The Boatmen buying themselves an extra week by winning the East has opened the door for the team’s best defensive player, LB Wynton McManis, to potentially be fully healthy coming off a knee sprain.

The legitimate defensive player of the year candidate would significantly boost the Boatmen.

McManis is not the only vital player who could be fully rested, and healthy come the East Final. Last weekend, the Argos rolled the dice and sat All-Star DB/LB Chris Edwards against Montreal. The banged-up Edwards, who has been playing CB for Toronto, was being saved for this weekend. That’s if Toronto still needed him. As it turns out, they don’t.

But after the Argos gave up over 400 yards passing to Montreal. They sure could have used Edwards in their pass coverage. They might see Montreal again. So it’s likely that Edwards will take a seat this weekend, meaning he will go a month without playing. A lot of rest for the wicked.

2021 All-Star rookie Centre Peter Nicastro is also back with the team. He traveled with Toronto from his hometown of Alberta after the Argos Edmonton game. Nicastro has been rehabbing from knee surgery at home. But he is now fully back in the trenches in Toronto, working his way toward making his 2022 debut.

Like the potential Andrew Harris situation, the Argonauts coaching staff will have interesting decisions to make when Nicastro is cleared for action. Do they insert him back in the middle, with Justin Lawrence on the bench for insurance?

Ryan Hunter appears to have locked down the left guard spot. But what happens if LT Isiah Cage returns from his head injuries? Cage has been working toward a return as well. Could Philip Blake slide back into his regular spot at guard?

No matter what the offensive line configuration is for the East Final, the Boatmen are inheriting a good problem in an area that has had trouble all season. To the eleven-game victors go the spoils.

No official word yet on WR Eric Rogers and DB Robertson Daniel. Both players have spent virtually the entire season on injured reserve and haven’t been ruled out for the playoffs.

Argos Week 21 Practice Report

Player NamePositionInjuryTUEWEDTHUGame Status
Juwan BrescacinWRHealthy ScratchFull
Isiah CageOLHeadFull
Chris EdwardsDBHealthy ScratchFull
Robert PriesterDBHeadFull
Shane RichardsOLKneeFull
Tigie SankohDBBicepDNP
Trevon TateOLKneeDNP

Toronto started their Week 21 work week at Lamport Stadium on Tuesday. The team will have two more practice days before concluding the week with another walkthrough on Friday.

Some familiar Argos are practicing that were on the report from last week. Like Isiah Cage, who was listed as a full participant. It remains to be seen if he will see any game action this week ahead of a current starter like Dejon Allen or Philip Blake.

This will likely be a case where many starters take the week off. The Week 21 one-game injured list should be a loaded one.

Because of the war of attrition that a long season entails. Any Argonauts players with minor nicks or bruises will sit out Saturday’s game against Montreal.

The Alouettes are likely to do the same. Because a week from now, they will be playing Hamilton for a shot at Toronto in the East Final.

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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