As the CFL Thanksgiving weekend comes to an end in Montreal, Alouette fans have a lot to be grateful for.
While it may be too soon for the Als to plan to take flight to Regina the weekend before U.S. Thanksgiving, the birds are a real contender for the 109th Grey Cup.
FACT: Since beginning the season 1-4, including an 0-2 start that saw two last minute losses come by a COMBINED total of 4-points, Trevor Harris has led Montreal to a 6-3 record.
The Alouettes bring a three-game win streak into the tilt at home against the Redblacks on Thanksgiving Day.
In addition to the two-season starting heartbreakers, the Als lost by one to the Elks, and by seven at Hamilton in a mid-summer game that felt to those of us in attendance like it was slipping away from the Ti-cats, whose victory was preserved by a late game interception and the clock running out.
While Montreal did have a couple of bad losses, one to Ottawa and another against the Riders, their other loss was to the Bombers.
The games they have lost have largely been exceptionally close and the Alouettes seem poised to be a “tough out” for the remainder of 2022.
FACT: Montreal was the first team to put a blemish on the Bombers’ record in 2022.
In addition to a loss against the two-time defending champions, the Alouettes beat Winnipeg once this season.
Should the Bombers once again win their way through the west, the Als are not going to have to figure out a new way to defeat Winnipeg. They will only need to tap back into a place they’ve already visited this year. Zach Collaros and his guys may beat Montreal, but they will not intimidate them.
In fact, having split the regular season matches with the Bombers may be the best possible position for Montreal. While they have proven an ability to defeat Winnipeg, the Alouettes will not face the daunting task of having to sweep all 3 head-to-head matchups should they meet the defending champions at Mosaic come November.
FACT: According to the CFL website, the Als currently lead the league in pass defence. While some of their prominence in these categories, such as overall yards (and points) surrendered are impacted by the fact that Montreal has played only 14 games so far, the team maintain strong stats even after the number of games is factored in.
Low points per game allowed by the pass defence is one sure sign the Montreal defence is a real bulwark.
As playoff time rolls around and one critical defensive stop of a late game drive can mean all the difference, the Alouettes are demonstrating they can slow down the aerial attack of opponents.
FACT: Eugene Lewis is an elite offensive threat.
Despite the Als having completed their bye weeks, Lewis is already over 1000 receiving yards.
Geno possesses the kind of talent that often makes him the best player on the field. Simply, he is in that class of players at the very top of the league.
Just as pass defence can put a stop to an opponent’s opportunities, having a weapon like Lewis guarantees Montreal can produce late-game heroics on offence if necessary.
FACT: Montreal has a hungry quarterback room, out to prove a point.
Somehow, Trevor Harris became a journeyman. His multiple stops on the CFL circuit landed him in the Province of Quebec where he was generally thought to be Vernon Adams, Jr’s backup.
Harris worked his way into the starter’s role before Adans was given the chance to start out west after injuries impacted the Lions at pivot.
Harris has faced a lot of questions throughout his career. It has been said he can post numbers but struggles to win games. Hoisting Lord Grey’s Cup this season would be a great answer to his critics.
And, let’s not forget Dominque Davis, who is — oh by the way — the CFL’s season leader in rushing touchdowns. Davis continues to excel in short yardage packages. He does his part and would be a danger to cap off a game-winning drive with a major to close out the season.
FACT: William Stanback is back.
Montreal has posted its victory against Winnipeg, its 6-3 record in the last nine, and its other accomplishments as its premier rusher has been out with injury.
Now that the all-star Stanback is back as the starter, Montreal has as dynamic a back as any in the league.
While Jushrun Antwi and Walter Fletcher have filled in very respectably in Stanback’s absence, the return of the undisputed number one in the Alouettes’ backfield makes the team unquestionably better.
FACT: There is tremendous room for growth among the receiving corps.
In addition to Lewis, the Als have very capable pass catchers who can absolutely do damage down the stretch.
Last season Jake Wieneke was one of the league’s surprises and a touchdown machine. This season Wieneke has fallen to competing with Kaion Julien-Grant for the WR3 spot, behind both superstar Lewis and Reggie White, Jr
Tyson Philpott has also shown some real capabilities both as a returner and in the passing game, and Hergy Mayala remains a steady option.
It’s likely that Stanback’s return will be a sort of triple threat. First, there is what he does on the ground, next his capacity to turn big plays as a receiver coming out of the backfield and, most importantly in this instance, how he will improve the effectiveness of the receiving corps, both as a pass blocker for Harris and as a threat that defences will have to account for.
With a guy like Stanback creating indecision on the part of defenders, that split second of delay will give the opportunity for the passing game to increase its productivity.
FACT: A favourable schedule awaits the Als in the season’s home stretch.
Montreal has home-and-home battles with Ottawa this week, followed by a season-ending home-and-home series with the Argos.
While there are still numerous scenarios available for the playoffs, the Alouettes control their own destiny.
Should the birds handle their business they stand a good chance to host the finals in the east. Coming into Thanksgiving, the Boatmen have just one fewer loss than Montreal.
As long as the Alouettes maintain their current position, they will host a semifinal game which, should they win, would put them in the finals against the Double Blue, where they would be in position to gain revenge for the devastating week 2 outcome at BMO field.
With the CFL season coming down to the final four weeks, the Montreal Alouettes are a legitimate contender for what would be the club’s first Grey Cup championship since they won the 98th Grey Cup at Commonwealth Stadium.
Happy Thanksgiving. Hope you enjoy the CFL on your holiday.
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