MONTREAL — The Montreal Alouettes and Ottawa REDBLACKS will battle it out in an East Division showdown for the second straight week on Thanksgiving Monday at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium.
It was Montreal who walked away with a 32-15 win in Week 17, locking down their spot in the playoffs in the process.
The Als may have guaranteed themselves a playoff date but there’s still plenty to play for as they try to remain in second place in the division and sweep the four-game season series from their division rival to close out Thanksgiving Weekend presented by Purolator.
Meanwhile, Ottawa is trying to get back in the win column with three games remaining in the regular season and their post-season hopes hanging by a thread. A loss on Monday would eliminate them from the playoff conversation.
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The Alouettes offence is getting contributions from all over the field of late, led by Cody Fajardo who completed 15 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown against the REDBLACKS last week.
Receivers Tyson Philpot, Tyler Snead and Cole Spieker hope to continue their strong play against a secondary led by Monshadrik Hunter and Damon Webb. Brandin Dandridge and his team-leading four interceptions are a game-time decision with a thigh issue.
Jason Maas’ offence sees the return of top receiver Austin Mack, putting even more pressure on a team that’s the worst at defending the pass, giving up 312.8 yards a game.
Their defence against the run, however, ranks second best. Looking to put them to the test again is the combination of Walter Fletcher and Jeshrun Antwi, as the team will be without starting running back William Stanback. Fletcher has 31 carries for 135 yards in five games this season, while Antwi has played in 15 and accumulated 172 yards.
Antwi knows his team needs to play compete football to come away with back-to-back wins over a division rival.
“Play clean football,” Antwi told reporters about the key to this week’s game.
“I think if we’re able to play disciplined football, play 60 minutes of football, dog fight focus, I think we can hang with the best of them.”
The focus of Ottawa’s front, meanwhile, should be two-fold. The first is halting the run game by limiting time and closing space. The second is to find a way to interrupt Fajardo in the pocket. They did the latter a week ago when defensive linemen Cleyon Laing and Kene Onyeka found their way through the offensive line for a sack, with Laing recording two. It’s a unit that will be without leader Lorenzo Mauldin IV who’s sidelined with a neck injury.
When the REDBLACKS offence runs on the field, turnovers will be the focus for quarterback Dustin Crum as he was picked off by Marc-Antoine Dequoy and Reggie Stubblefield last time out. The two picks gave the Als secondary 20 interceptions on the season.
With each passing week, Dequoy has found a way to contribute and he believes there’s more left in his tank.
“The thing is, the ceiling is yourself putting a limit on it,” Dequoy told reporters.
“When a play’s over, it’s the next play. If you strive to be the best at every single play, the play is going to happen. I do a lot of visualizations about all types of plays, about being in the Grey Cup, being in the Eastern Final. It’s just mental preparation.”
Look for head coach Bob Dyce to utilize the run early and often as they’ve accumulated the second most rushing yards of any team with 1,971. The main drivers of the ground game have been Crum and Devonte Williams. The running back had a touchdown in the loss but was held to 25 yards on seven carries, a total that needs to improve if the REDBLACKS hope to get into the win column.
Stopping the run for a second straight week falls on the entire defence. Defensive linemen Mustafa Johnson, Shawn Lemon and Almondo Sewell are tasked with holding strong up front, while Tyrice Beverette and Darnell Sankey aim to provide support at linebacker. Stubblefield and Beverette had two sacks each on Crum and Sankey continued his strong play with one of his own.
Montreal can move closer to a second place finish in the East Division with a win.
Ottawa is attempting stay in the playoff conversation and avoid the season sweep with a victory. A win keeps their post-season hopes alive via potential crossover into the West.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET. Canadian viewers can watch the game on TSN/RDS. International and U.S. audiences can catch the action on CFL+.
— With files from MontrealAlouettes.com