Does Montreal have what it takes to get to the Grey Cup championship game? And is B.C. destined to miss the postseason? These are two questions to pop up after Week 12 in the Canadian Football League.
The Montreal Alouettes (6-4) moved into first place in the East Division on points differential with a comprehensive 37-16 win against Toronto (6-4) to kick off the week.
The Argonauts took an early lead but by halftime they were playing catch-up football with the Als in front 21-10. Montreal running back William Stanback had a career game racking up 203 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Matthew Shiltz made his second consecutive start and passed for 212 yards and two scores.
From Toronto’s standpoint, quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson had a so-so game passing for 268 yards, but he couldn’t connect with any of his receivers in the endzone and threw four interceptions.
The first game of Saturday’s tripleheader saw Hamilton (5-5) dominate Ottawa (2-9) to the tune of 32-3. The result kept the Ticats in touch with Toronto in the East. It was the first win for Hamilton quarterback Jeremiah Masoli since the 2019 season.
“It was huge,” said Masoli. “We’re in a race coming down this home stretch.”
Neither team got on the board until the second quarter, but in the third and fourth quarters, the Tiger-Cats stepped it up and ran away with it. The win was set up largely by the defence, which came up with three interceptions to stall any hope the Redblacks had of playing themselves into the game.
Playoff-bound Winnipeg (10-1) completely overwhelmed a totally dysfunctional B.C. (4-6) in shutting out the Lions 45-0 in the second game Saturday. It was the Bombers’ eighth straight victory, a stretch they haven’t put together in 18 years.
Quarterback Zach Collaros played another one of what’s becoming his typical stellar performances. He threw three touchdown passes and was supported nicely by running back Brady Oliveira, who scored his first CFL touchdown while filling in for the injured Andrew Harris.
With all three phases of the game dominating, Bombers’ head coach Mike O’Shea said it was the team’s most complete performance of the season so far.
“It was nice to see the special teams get going,” he said. “They’ve been working hard and to get a reward like that, it’s good for them.”
The win clinched the West Division for the Bombers and ensured that the road to the Grey Cup will go through Winnipeg with the Western final to be played at IG Field on December 5th.
In the final game of the week, Saskatchewan (6-4) improved their standings with a close 20-17 victory over Calgary (5-6) at McMahon Stadium. The Roughriders snapped their two-game skid and avoided being swept by the Stampeders in their regular-season series.
It was a game of halves with Calgary dominating the first two quarters and Saskatchewan doing likewise in the third and fourth. Riders’ quarterback Cody Fajardo found some of his old form by throwing a couple of touchdowns in the second half that triggered his team’s comeback.
From the Stamps’ perspective, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell overtook Henry Burris as Calgary’s all-time leader in completions, but that was little solace in their sixth loss on the season.
So, with four weeks to go in the regular season, there are still many unanswered questions. In the East, things are very tight as far as the three playoff spots are concerned. It looks to be a toss-up between the Alouettes and Argonauts as to who will finish first and second, but the Ticats are well and truly in the mix and could eclipse both if they win out and the others drop a couple of their remaining games.
Currently, Montreal would appear to be the form team of the three, and if they keep it up, they could well see themselves contending for a championship.
Over in the West, with the Blue Bombers clinching, it seems to be a race between Saskatchewan and Calgary for the other two playoff berths. However, neither one of them is a shoo-in to go deep in the postseason unless they somehow get red hot in the next four weeks.
The Lions are the bugaboo team. On current form, they don’t look like finishing with a better record than the third-placed team in the East, meaning the crossover rule wouldn’t come into play. But the thing is you just never know. If they suddenly get hot and Hamilton falters on the run home, that could change everything.