The Argos are on Montreal-Hamilton watch during the opening weekend of the CFL playoffs. The East division champion Toronto Argonauts are practicing this week without a straightforward opponent for the East Final at BMO Field on Sunday, November 13th. Should the Boatmen have a preference as they await the winner of the East Semi-Final?
Argos On Montreal-Hamilton Watch
The Boatmen will either face the Alouettes in the East Final for the fourth time this season.
Or, Toronto will square off with Hamilton for the fifth time this year. Six, if you count the two rivals’ preseason game back in June.
A year ago, the Ti-Cats and Double Blue met five times, with the 2021 finale ending with a triumphant Hamilton topping Toronto at BMO in the East Final. To paraphrase the late great Heath Ledger’s Joker, the Argonauts and Tiger-Cats are destined to do this forever.
Argonauts fans are having a challenging time deciding who they would rather see their team face in the East Final. As evidenced by a recent poll conducted by the Xs and Argos podcast, the preference is a near 50-50 split.
Despite the flack that the East has received this year, and understandably so when compared to the top three teams in the West. Both Hamilton (8-10) and Montreal (9-9), despite not having records over .500, are formidable challengers to compete for a Grey Cup.
The Alouettes and Ti-Cats have been two of the league’s better teams in the second half of the 2022 CFL season. Both teams overcame poor starts and won big games against the West’s best to make the playoffs.
Montreal and Hamilton pose significant threats to Toronto’s standing as the top team in the East. Because no matter what the regular season record of the Argos states, if they lose the Final at home, they relinquish their claim to the 2022 Eastern throne. The same fate the Argonauts suffered a year ago.
The Argos Matching Up Again With The Alouettes
Somehow despite the Argos and Alouettes playing each other three times this season. It’s difficult to take stock of what has already transpired between these two teams in the regular season.
Firstly, you can throw the regular-season finale out of the equation. An exciting glorified preseason game, where Montreal won 38-33. And lastly, Toronto’s home-opening one-point victory over Montreal in June saw an entirely different Alouettes team than the one that exists today. No Stanback, No Khari Jones at head coach, and as a result, an altogether different Als staff and coaching philosophy.
So the only genuine game to dissect between the Argonauts and Als is their meeting in Montreal a few weeks back. The game that decided the East Division. Yet another contest between the two East rivals, determined by one point on a missed kick.
In that game at Molson, the Alouettes moved the ball very well against Toronto’s defence, accumulating over 400 yards passing through the air. Montreal faltered to score in the red zone early but cracked Toronto’s code and rallied late twice to nearly win the game.
The Argonauts were without Chris Edwards and Wynton McManis. Two of their best defensive players, and they could still be minus the latter for the East Final.
The Als were still working star RB William Stanback up to speed in October. So both teams could be slightly different than when they met in that high-stakes game.
Oh, and yeah, Andrew Harris is returning to the Argonauts lineup. For all the talk about how Harris underperformed as an Argo this season, he rushed for 87 yards against Montreal in June before leaving that game with a hamstring injury.
A true rematch with adjustments made from the 24-23 game by both sides will come into play if Montreal and Toronto meet again.
The Argos Matching Up Again With The Tiger-Cats
If their paths cross yet again in the East Final, The Argos will not be facing the same Ti-Cats team they thoroughly beat 28-8 in Hamilton on Labour Day. After all, not only was Hamilton still stuck in the doldrums of a frustrating season. But Toronto faced the QB tandem of Jamie Newman and Jalen Morton back in September.
No 2021 East Final hero Dane Evans, and even Matthew Shiltz, who has had great success recently against the Boatmen. Not to mention an inactive Lawrence Woods, who single-handily beat Toronto earlier this season with over 200 return yards. The Ti-Cats were also without defensive stalwart Simoni Lawrence.
Argonauts loyalists will point to the fact that the Boatmen beat Hamilton 37-20 at home a week earlier when Jamal Peters intercepted Dane Evans three times. But even that Ti-Cats team is vastly different than the Hamilton squad we see now.
The Tiger-Cats were 3-9 after their last meeting with the Argos and were left for dead.
Hamilton has since won five of their last six games, with two victories coming against Winnipeg and Calgary.
The Ti-Cats will be a tough out for Montreal this Sunday, a team Hamilton beat in the East Semi-Final in 2021.
Hamilton can’t be overlooked. They are not only battle-tested. Having been to the Grey Cup for two straight seasons. But they also have a psychological advantage over Montreal, and especially Toronto. The Ti-Cats are an extremely talented bunch, as evidenced by their league-leading 11 All-Star nods after the CFL’s initial vote tabulation faux-pas.
Perhaps when the smoke clears, it will be poetic justice.
The entire 2022 Toronto season has been about getting back to the East Final at home and exercising their demons from a year ago. Wouldn’t it be something if Hamilton was once again standing in the Argonauts’ way of competing for the Grey Cup?
However, the same result as 2021 would be demoralizing for Double Blue. That’s why I am surprised that some Toronto fans are voting to face Hamilton again. Be careful what you wish for. You might not like what you get.
Final Thoughts/Montreal-Hamilton Prediction
Preparing for Hamilton or Montreal won’t be as easy as it looks on paper. Despite Toronto having familiarity with both.
The Alouettes will counterpunch from what they saw in their last real meeting with the Argonauts.
Preparing for the Tiger-Cats could be a headache for the Argos’ defensive staff. After all, there’s no guarantee that Dane Evans or Matthew Shiltz gets the start or even finishes the game.
Prepping for two different quarterbacks is a challenging task. And could have eerily similar results to last year’s Final.
No matter who the Argonauts face in the East Final. The pressure will be squarely on Toronto’s shoulders to win at home and right the wrong of last season.
As for Sunday’s East Semi-Final? Montreal beat Hamilton at home 23-16 back in late September. The Als match up well against the Ti-Cats because they are well-rounded on offence. And Trevor Harris typically plays mistake-free football.
However, I think Hamilton’s staff will make adjustments from their last game with Montreal. The Ti-Cats have been in this position before, beating Montreal in a high-stakes playoff atmosphere. Hamilton has a slight edge defensively. I am going to take the Tiger-Cats in a close one. 29-27.