LIVESTREAM PPV: CFL – Winnipeg Blue Bombers @Montreal Alouettes, June 22, 7p (1a June 23 CEST)

MONTREAL — The Montreal Alouettes could use a break.

The team is on a 12-game losing streak dating back to August of last season, and despite a bright start in BC last week ultimately fell 22-10 to the Lions.

Mike Sherman’s Als return home this week to host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday Night Football in a Week 2 game with potentially huge implications; Montreal is teetering on the edge of the same abyss as 2017, and a 13th-straight defeat would set the team on course to replicate last year’s last-place finish.

Quarterback Drew Willy showed flashes against the Lions, but the question remains: Will the Alouettes be able to move the chains consistently?

On the Winnipeg side of the matchup, Mike O’Shea’s Bombers dropped a 33-30 decision in last week’s weather-delayed Thunder Bowl. Rookie gunslinger Chris Streveler — on in place of injured starter Matt Nichols — showed legitimate playmaking ability (three TDs) as well as some inexperience (two INTs), but overall looked capable of running an offence efficiently.

“He handles the huddle well,” Bombers offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice told BlueBombers.com. “Some guys get it in the huddle and they’re nervous. He doesn’t need the play call read to him. He hears it once and can repeat it. All those things are about a guy having a command and a presence. And he has that.”

Streveler will make his second professional start on Friday night against a former Bomber in Willy; the 31-year-old Als pivot started 29 games over three seasons (2014-16) with Winnipeg.

Few players have spent more time at the stadium and in the film room than Streveler, a true rookie out of South Dakota.

“He spends a lot of time in the building,” continued LaPolice. “He doesn’t speak too much…sometimes guys are trying to show you how much they know. He doesn’t do that. But if you ask him a question, he’s got an answer.”

Answers are something the Bombers will hope to have against former teammate Willy.

“Some of the things we liked about Drew, and the reason we brought him here in the first place, are the things that he’s going to show again,” said Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea. “He’s going to throw accurate footballs…be able to push the ball down the field…get out of a jam with his legs.”

With that said, O’Shea believes his team is better today than it was under the now-Alouettes pivot.

“He did well for us here for a time,” continued O’Shea. “If you look at our team now compared to the team Drew Willy was leading, we’re a better football team now. Drew worked extremely hard, did well and got us off to a helluva good start — 5-1 and 6-3 (in 2014) and then sometimes everything just sort of catches up with you.”

The wholesale personnel changes made by Montreal have made preparing for Rich Stubler’s Alouette defence a difficult task early in 2018.

In addition to former Bomber Jamaal Westerman up front, Montreal added the likes of Tommie Campbell(Calgary) and Mitchell White (Toronto) in the secondary and Henoc Muamba (Saskatchewan) at linebacker.

“I was watching film of Montreal from last year and I think out of their front six only one of them is playing in his original spot,” said Winnipeg centre Matthias Goossen. “I could watch six different games… I could watch Westerman with Winnipeg last year, Henoc from Sask… it’s just so hard to watch film that way. That’s why it’s difficult in the early part of the season because you don’t have a lot of film to study.”

For Richie Hall’s defensive unit, there was a sense that last week’s three-point loss in Edmonton was an unjust outcome.

“I felt great about (the defence). Contested balls, 50-50…to have three big plays…we were in position with hands up,” said Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill. “If they make a great play, shoot, that’s football. We’ll live to play another down. As long as the ball is not over our head with a miscommunication and no one in sight, I could care less. Guys were fighting hard.”

The Bombers’ roster will see four changes from Week 1; Maurice Leggett and Ian Wild both return to Winnipeg’s ridiculously deep linebacker corps, freshly-signed Mitchell Gale will slot in at QB-3 on the depth chart and national running back Kienan LaFrance slides in to back up Andrew Harris.

Leggett is easing back from injury, and has recorded 50 or more tackles in each of his four seasons as a Bomber, while the dependable Wild has had two of his last three seasons derailed by injury. Gale last suited up for BC in 2017, while LaFrance rushed for 273 yards and a pair of touchdowns with Saskatchewan.

Despite 12 straight losses, including a tough start to the season in BC, the Als are enjoying the optimism of a new season and a fresh start.

Rich Stubler’s defence looked decent against BC, but Khari Jones’s offence sputtered and died after a couple big-time plays in the first quarter. The end result was a disappointing 22-10 loss, but quarterback Drew Willy believes the first quarter serves as a glimpse of what could be for the Alouette offence in 2018.

“We got off to a fast start, (with) a touchdown on the first series — two, one got brought back — (but) we were able to deal with some adversity,” Willy told MontrealAlouettes.com. “Any time you can get off to a fast start, it’s good. We need to put more drives like that together.”

Of course, the familiarity factor with Willy — less than two years removed from his Bomber days — and the Winnipeg defence could be key come Friday night.

“I practised against those guys for two and a half years, (and) still have some really good friends there — that’s the thing about the CFL, it’s a league (where) a lot of people know each other,” continued Willy. “They’ll have some things on me, I’ll have some things on them, but it’s whoever executes the game plan better.”

THERE WAS FIRST-QUARTER DREW WILLY AND THIRD-QUARTER DREW WILLY IN VANCOUVER LAST WEEK. WHICH ONE WILL TAKE THE FIELD ON FRIDAY? (CFL.CA PHOTO/JIMMY JEONG)

T.J. Graham remains out for the Alouettes after missing the season-opener, but other than that the Als boast a deep receiving corps that could benefit from the speed of off-season addition Chris Williams. Williams fell two yards shy of a hundred in his first game as an Alouette, catching six passes for 98 yards and on one play getting behind the Lions’ defence.

He’ll keep a Bombers’ secondary honest, the same one that was burned for a 101-yard touchdown by Derel Walker last week and allowed 408 yards to Mike Reilly in a Week 1 loss.

In order to stretch the field with their dangers receivers, however, the Als’ O-line will have to protect Willy, which will be a test following an injury to Ruben Carter. The Als will start national Sean Jamieson in his spot at right tackle after the O-line allowed five sacks in its debut.

The Als are leaving the door open for John Bowman to make his 2018 debut after missing the opener, but the veteran defensive end could be a game time decision.

Cruchin’ Numbers:

5 – League-high sacks allowed by Montreal in Week 1. For Drew Willy to be effective, the Alouette offensive line is going to have to afford him the protection and time to make plays.

13 – Quarterbacks who have started a game for Montreal since Anthony Calvillo’s last game in August 2013 (Josh Neiswander, Troy Smith, Tanner Marsh, Jonathan Crompton, Alex Brink, Rakeem CatoKevin GlennBrandon Bridge, Vernon Adams, Darian Durant, Drew Willy, Matt Shiltz).

110 – Yard field-goal return touchdown for Kevin Fogg last week against Edmonton. If you missed it, it was the kind of play that makes special teams ‘special‘.

1,192 – Career points for Winnipeg kicker Justin Medlock, who is on milestone watch this week as he closes in on the 1,200 mark. The veteran out of UCLA’s career kicking percentage is 86.2 per cent, and he has been at or over 80 per cent in every season since 2011 en route to becoming the CFL’s undisputed premier kicker.

To say this is a big game for both the Bombers and Alouettes is an understatement.

Winnipeg has plenty to prove, chiefly whether it can win with Chris Streveler under centre.

The Alouettes are looking to avoid their 13th straight loss and subsequently slide further into a hole at the bottom of the East Division standings.

Winnipeg was carved up at times by Mike Reilly and the Eskimos offence in Week 1; Montreal’s offence failed to break down BC for the bulk of their season opener on the west coast.

You don’t want to throw the term ‘must-win’ out there this early in the season, but it certainly feels like it’s valid — especially in Alouette-land, where the pain of last season is only a few losses away from threatening to repeat itself.

– With files from BlueBombers.com/MontrealAlouettes.com

AFI, Yare Media and the CFL

American Football International is collaborating with Yare Media and the Canadian Football League to present 2018 CFL games live. This is more than a livestream. This is a stream of the top flight TSN network television broadcast.

LIVE STREAM: CFL – Winnipeg Blue Bombers @Montreal Alouettes, June 22, 7p (1a June 23 CEST)

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