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Toronto Argonauts Surging As Team Enters Pivotal Five Game Stretch

The Toronto Argonauts are headed to the playoffs for the second year in a row. The now 8-5 Double Blue winners of four straight games are coming off their most dominant performance of the 2022 season. A 45-15 shellacking of the Ottawa Redblacks. The Boatmen rode a perfect storm in Week 16. In a game where the Argos scored 27 points in the second half and yet ran only 15 offensive plays in the final two quarters. If you exclude their three kneel-downs to end the contest.

Toronto Argonauts Week 16 Aftermath

The cynics question whether Toronto’s latest surge of success is fool’s gold. After all, their four consecutive victories have come against Hamilton and Ottawa. Two teams that are currently at the bottom of the league’s standings. 7-20 combined.

What lies ahead for the Double Blue in their last five games is a much more daunting stretch than they have recently experienced. The Argos are about to step up in class the next two weeks against two of the better teams in the league, Calgary & BC, who both own victories over Toronto this season.

But before we look forward to Week 17 and beyond for the Boatmen. Including all the latest news surrounding the football club. Let’s briefly look back at what transpired in Week 16. You may not see a better overall performance the rest of this season.

Toronto Argonauts Week 16 Report Card

After multiple viewings of Saturday’s Argonauts victory, it’s challenging to find very many flaws.

Ryan Dinwiddie and his entire coaching staff are hitting their stride. They were well prepared for Ottawa after the bye, and it showed.

On offence, Toronto, the league’s worst rushing team, ran the ball exceedingly well in their limited opportunities. 7.2 yards per rush, 116 yards on 16 rushes. The offensive attack showed new wrinkles in the ground game that paid dividends. The passing attack had a few blemishes, drops, and a mistimed interception. Notwithstanding all of that, McLeod Bethel-Thompson and his receivers had their way with the Redblacks secondary. Only 29 pass attempts, for 245 yards and three scores. But Toronto could have thrown for 400 yards if they needed to.

Corey Mace’s defence is clicking on all cylinders. The team has allowed the fewest touchdowns in the CFL. (23). Against Ottawa, the Argos’ pass coverage was unbelievably great. It’s been the strength of the team all season—the driving force behind Double Blue’s recent success. We’ve come a long way from the week two debacle in Vancouver.

Save for pass plays underneath to the criminally underrated Nate Behar. Ottawa had nowhere to go with the ball. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better outing for a defensive secondary than on Saturday night. Five interceptions, two returned for scores. And others that set up immediate scores.

The Argos linebacking crew of Wynton McManis, Henoc Muamba, and Chris Edwards are as good as it gets. Especially in coverage. They are assignment sound and almost impossible to exploit.

Jamal Peters completely shut down CFL leading receiver Jaelon Acklin. Peters is not only making the obvious case as a league All-Star. But he is starting to pick up steam as a legit defensive player of the year candidate. The player who would rightly trump him for that honor is teammate Wynton McManis.

Boris Bede hasn’t had the type of season he did a year ago, where he won multiple close games for the Argos with clutch kicks. Bede went back to handling dual duties as punter/kicker on Saturday. But with mixed results at best. Toronto’s return game is still essentially nonexistent. But their coverage units have been stellar ever since their breakdown over a month against Hamilton. Jack Cassar, Daniel Adeboboye, and others have been stalwarts in this area.

Week 17 Starts Pivotal Stretch For The Toronto Argonauts

For over a decade or longer in the CFL, the Calgary Stampeders, a model of consistency, have been the measuring stick for opposing teams. Week 17 presents that same scenario for the Boatmen.

It’s been anything but a banner year for Eastern teams this season. And even though Toronto has been the exception to the rule in the division this year. Until they beat a prominent team from the West, the Argonauts winning record will be looked upon with skepticism.

Excluding Nathan Rourke rewriting record books against the Argonauts in week two. Toronto has hung tough with Western teams. They swept Saskatchewan earlier this year, admittedly under unique circumstances. And the Argos also hung tough against Winnipeg and Calgary, losing tightly contested games against both.

In Week 17 of the 2022 season, the doubts surrounding Double Blue will be tested against the 9-5 Calgary Stampeders. A team that predictably found a way to win an ugly game 22-19 over Toronto at BMO Field back in late August. That’s been the Stamps trademark for so long. They routinely find ways to win games even when they are not at their best. The Boatmen will need to be at theirs to corral the Stampeders this Saturday.

Race For The Eastern Crown

The playoff picture has created confusion amongst CFL followers and the league itself. Despite earlier reports to the contrary, the Argos have not clinched a home playoff game, or maybe they have. The confusion had many pondering the result of a snowball’s chance in hell scenario where Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto finish the season at 8-10. But what about Saskatchewan at 9-9 as the crossover team from the West? Heads are spinning in CFL circles playing the what-if game.

Bizarre three-way tiebreaker scenarios and confusion aside. Everything will sort itself out in the next few weeks, and the picture will be much more apparent.

Ultimately, the goal for the Argos is winning the East in their final five games. At first glance, the path to do so seems favorable for Toronto. After all, they have a two-game lead over Montreal, with a win over them in their back pocket.

However, whether or not Toronto can win the East division with ease will be determined by their next two games against the two of the best from the West.

The Argonauts square off as underdogs with the Stamps in Calgary this coming Saturday afternoon and then finally return to BMO Field on October 8th to clash with the BC Lions. Subsequently, during these next two weeks, the 6-7 Montreal Alouettes have games at Edmonton (4-10) and then home for the 3-10 Redblacks.

Things may appear rosy for Toronto now. But a two-game swoon against the West’s elite could open the door for Montreal to challenge for the Eastern crown by beating two of the league’s worst teams record-wise.

EAST DIVISION STANDINGS

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1 Toronto x13850163332924-3-04-2-06-2-0
2 Montreal13670123383374-3-02-4-03-3-0
3 Hamilton14410083153844-3-00-7-03-5-0
4 Ottawa13310062643360-7-03-3-02-4-0

Perhaps it’s a doomsday scenario for Double Blue. But in two weeks’ time, Toronto and Montreal could both be tied for first place at 8-7.

The Argonauts would love nothing more than to sail into the final two weeks of the regular season with everything all sewn up. But as long as Montreal is within two games of Toronto, the East can’t be captured before then because both teams play each other in the final two games.

The Alouettes have been inconsistent all season long. And that’s reflected in their 6-7 record. But if Montreal takes care of business against Edmonton and Ottawa twice in the next three weeks. They can fly into the season’s final two weeks with a shot to win the East.

How realistic that opportunity will be for Montreal will be contingent upon what the Argonauts do in their next three games against teams from the West.

Toronto appears guaranteed to have a home game in the playoffs. But anything less than hosting the East Final at BMO would be a disappointing development.

Toronto Argonauts Strengthening Their Roster

Debbie Downer scenarios aside. There are legitimate reasons to believe better days are headed for the Boatmen this season. The Toronto Argonauts are loading up on outside reinforcements to their roster while potentially getting stronger from within due to players returning from long-term injuries.

In case you missed it over the weekend. The Argonauts announced the signing of former 2018 first-round pick, offensive linemen Ryan Hunter. The Ontario native started on the one-game injured list this past weekend. But will be a regularly active player moving forward in the coming weeks. It’s a massive get for the Boatmen; Hunter has spent most of his pro career in the NFL and finally makes his way to Canada four years later.

For months, the Double Blue have made do without two starting offensive tackles, Trevon Tate (knee) and Isiah Cage (concussion). The inclusion of the versatile Hunter gives Toronto gives line coach Kris Sweet and the staff more options in shoring up a makeshift offensive line. Hunter can play C, G, or T. But it’s possible that he ends up manning one of the tackle spots before long.

It will be interesting to see what configuration the Argos coaching staff uses when Hunter is inserted into the lineup. Philip Blake, the grizzled veteran, has been playing at left tackle for the first time in his pro career. The team could opt to slide him back to guard and move rookie Gregor MacKellar into a swing role at guard. RT Dejon Allen, who was the team’s starter last year at left tackle, has dealt with back troubles all season. But if healthier, he could shift back to the left side, with Hunter taking control at right tackle.

To further complicate matters in a positive realm. Sources indicate that 2021 All-Star rookie C Peter Nicastro is inching close to returning. Still recovering from off-season knee surgery, the goal for Nicastro is for him to be back for the final few weeks of the regular season. The weakest part of Toronto could roll with seven or eight quality starting options within a few weeks.

Depth strength could also make its way to the Boatmen’s receiving corps with Cam Phillips, who appears likely to come off the injured list against Calgary. The talent level is so deep right now that finding room to play players will be a good problem for the Argos.

Toronto’s defence also has an opportunity to get better in the next few weeks. Shaq Richardson looks ready to return from a groin injury like Cam Phillips. Although not listed on the practice report last week, Richardson was doing heavy work preparing for action.

It’s worth noting how well the back end of the Boatmen’s secondary has played in recent weeks. Maurice Carnell IV, option C behind Richardson, and Robert Priester has been playing lights-out football at defensive halfback. The summer standout has had four interceptions since returning to Toronto a little over a month ago. The 27-year-old North Alabama alum has been given an opportunity to shine and has come through big time. He has three interceptions and a touchdown return in his last two games.

Despite Robert Priester practicing in full last week. Carnell’s play made it difficult for the coaching staff to change their starting secondary. And they didn’t.

JaGared Davis returned with a bang to the Argonauts lineup on Saturday, registering two sacks. The return of Davis couldn’t come at a better time, with Toronto last in the league in sacks before Week 16. Davis joins a healthy Shane Ray and a new crop of defensive line imports in Ali Fayad, Damontre Moore, and Brandon Barlow.

Davis doubled his sack total of the season on Saturday. And by doing so, he helped the Argonauts punch their ticket to playoffs. It puts Ja’Gared in a position to try and make his sixth straight Grey Cup appearance. The way Toronto has played recently, it looks like they have a realistic chance to make that happen.

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