July 24th, 2024

Argos to host Alouettes in battle of unbeaten East Division rivals

By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press on June 26, 2024.

Montreal Alouettes quarterback Cody Fajardo (7) makes a throw against the Edmonton Elks during first half CFL action in Edmonton on Friday June 14, 2024. Fajardo and the Alouettes are becoming road warriors. The defending Grey Cup champions visit the Toronto Argonauts on Friday night in a battle of unbeaten East Division rivals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.

Another week another road game for Cody Fajardo and the Montreal Alouettes.

Montreal (3-0) visits the Toronto Argonauts (2-0) on Friday night in a battle of unbeaten East Division rivals. It will mark the third time in four games the defending Grey Cup champions will play on the road, while the Argos has yet to leave BMO Field.

And home field has definitely been good to Toronto, which is riding an 11-game win streak that dates back to last season, However, Montreal also comes in having won its last 11 games – regular season and playoffs – since a 23-20 loss to the Argos on Sept. 15.

The Argos used a strong running game to defeat Edmonton 39-36 last weekend. Ka’Deem Carey accounted for 104 of Toronto’s 186 rushing yards in the contest and had one of the club’s three touchdowns on the ground.

Quarterback Cameron Dukes was a tidy 18-of-21 passing for 214 yards and two TDs and ran for another TD and a two-point convert. Toronto heads into action boasting the CFL’s top ground attack (153 yards per game).

Fajardo spearheads a Montreal offence that’s tops in the CFL in offensive TDs (11) and stands second behind Toronto (37 points) in offensive scoring (32.3). The rushing game is also important to the Alouettes (league-high 63 attempts, second-most yards at 285).

Fajardo has seven TD passes this season, tying him with Saskatchewan’s Trevor Harris for the league lead. The ’23 Grey Cup MVP also boasts a solid 73.1 completion percentage and has throw just one interception.

Dukes, in his first season as Toronto’s starter, is an impressive 39-of-48 passing (81.3 per cent) with five TDs and no interceptions.

Tyson Philpot, the 2023 Grey Cup game’s top Canadian, has 23 catches (tied for CFL lead) for 340 yards (second overall) and three TDs.

Both offences have done a nice job of not beating themselves. They’ve registered just two turnovers each, tying them for the league lead in that category.

Montreal’s defence has been the CFL’s stingiest thus far, allowing a league-low 15 offensive points per game. The unit also leads the league in fewest yards (319.7 per game) and offensive TDs allowed (four) and while it stands second in pass defence (267 yards per game), the Alouettes have given up just one passing TD, also tops in the CFL.

Montreal is also tied with Edmonton for most sacks (eight).

Toronto counters with the CFL’s second-best rushing defence (47.5 yards per game) and has recorded seven sacks over its two contests.

Both teams are solid on special teams, with Canadian kickers David Coté (seven-of-eight field goals) and Lirim Hajrullahu (four-of-four) and punt returners James Letcher Jr. (CFL-best 13.3-yard average) and Janarion Grant (13.1-yard average, second overall).

It all adds up to a closely contested matchup. When in doubt, give the nod to the defending champion.

Pick: Montreal.

Edmonton Elks versus B.C. Lions (Thursday night)

At Vancouver, CFL passing leader Vernon Adams Jr. starts for B.C. (2-1) despite missing Tuesday’s practice with an abdominal issue. Adams threw for 398 yards and two TDs in last week’s win over Winnipeg. Alexander Hollins had seven catches for 215 yards and the two scores. McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw for 348 yards and four TDs versus Toronto but Edmonton (0-3) will play on four days rest. The hard-luck Elks took a 10-point lead into the fourth against Saskatchewan and have suffered consecutive three-point losses.

Pick: B.C.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers versus Calgary Stampeders (Saturday night)

At Calgary, the Stampeders (1-1) should be rested after the bye week. Jake Maier is off to a solid start (79.7 completion average, four TDs, one interception) but the home team is chasing its first win in seven regular-season games versus Winnipeg (0-3), which hasn’t been in this position since 2012. Zach Collaros has a league-low 73.0 efficiency rating and hasn’t thrown a TD pass yet. Winnipeg receivers Dalton Schoen and Keric Wheatfall (both knee) join stalwart Kenny Lawler on the injured list.

Pick: Calgary.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats versus Ottawa Redblacks (Sunday night)

At Ottawa, the Redblacks (1-1) look to resume their winning ways following a 47-21 setback last week in Montreal. Receiver Justin Hardy was solid, though, with seven catches for 143 yards while starter Dru Brown finished 21-of-34 passing for 292 yards with a TD and interception. Hamilton (0-3) had five turnovers (three interceptions, two lost fumbles) in last week’s 36-20 road loss to Saskatchewan. Shemar Bridges (nine receptions, 113 yards, touchdown) was a bright spot, however.

Pick: Ottawa.

Last week: 1-3.

Overall: 5-7.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2024.

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