Head to Head: Who has the edge in the Eastern Final?

By Marshall Ferguson

After defeating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in front of a passionate home crowd at Percival Molson Stadium, the Montreal Alouettes will travel to BMO Field for a meeting with the Toronto Argonauts.

With the stage set, let’s take a detailed look at where each team might hold an edge in Sunday’s Eastern Final.

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While I have my concerns about McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s deep ball numbers, and I have always thought the best way to counter Trevor Harris’ crazy efficiency is to hit some home runs. I don’t think this game relies exclusively on the Argos being able to connect on big passing plays.

The intermediate areas of the field, specifically around and between the hashes have been very good to Bethel-Thompson on his way to leading the CFL in passing yards this season. A trend I believe will continue in the Eastern Final.

In week 20 these two met with the East Division crown at stake. Harris completed a higher percentage of passes for more yards in a game that came down to a missed kick and a heel out of bounds.

Realistically what this comes down to for me, is that I don’t believe the Argos defence will allow Harris to jump out early and settle into the drivers seat as Hamilton did. If Toronto forces Harris to stay aggressive for the extent of the game and Bethel-Thompson makes a couple big throws to Brandon Banks or Kurleigh Gittens Jr. then Toronto should ride the home field energy to a slight, but meaningful quarterback advantage.


Running backs 

I understand Andrew Harris is coming back and A.J. Ouellette has held down the fort admirably, gaining more and more respect from Toronto football fans for his tough-nosed approach to the game. My concern is that I don’t know what Harris is going to look like and with Ouellette in the backfield the Argos have remained a pass happy club, producing rushing numbers near the league’s basement.

In Montreal, Walter Fletcher is clearly on his way to becoming the feature back with Jeshrun Antwi and William Stanback each playing a unique supporting role.



Eugene Lewis is better than anybody on the field, and Jake Wieneke played an important role in helping the Alouettes jump to an early lead over Hamilton on Sunday, before Als offensive coordinator Anthony Calvillo threw the clamps on that offence.

Toronto has many talented pass-catchers and will likely utilize all of them while leaning on Kurleigh Gittens Jr. but Lewis is the difference maker here as the rightful East Division Most Outstanding Player nominee.


Offensive line

I like the added physicality that Ryan Hunter has given Toronto since landing in Double Blue and the tackles are some of the best in the East. But I saw Montreal up close and personal at Percival Molson Stadium and they were moving bodies up front.

Maybe it’s recency bias, but Landon Rice is the Most Outstanding Lineman nominee from Montreal and I think Pier-Olivier Lestage is the real star of the group. Veteran Kristian Matte has played solid as ever and it shouldn’t go unnoticed that David Brown has stepped in at centre for the injured Sean Jamieson seamlessly.


Defensive line

Despite creating six sacks on Dane Evans and Matthew Shiltz in the Semi-Final victory over Hamilton, Montreal’s front still rests a step below Toronto’s in my mind.

I love Mustafa Johnson and Jamal Davis working side-by-side in Montreal. Then I remember that on the opposing sideline will be Shawn Oakman and Ja’Gared Davis, complemented by Dewayne Hendrix and Canadian Robbie Smith. Who has looked very comfortable in a primary pass rushing role this season in the absence of Shane Ray.



Chris Ackie and Tyrice Beverette had sensational games in the Eastern-Final, with Beverette playing the star on a late blitz to force a game changing fumble.

If the Als get that type of defensive production they could have the advantage here, but Henoc Muamba has my respect and he is flanked by Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan Jones who have made a lot of plays down the stretch for the Argos.

It’s close, and would be a runaway if Wynton McManis were healthy, but I still think Toronto has the slight advantage.


Defensive backs

With a CFL-high 29 interceptions, twice that of Montreal, the Argos secondary are incredibly dangerous. They are quick to react on everything from screens to crossing routes and deep balls.

The Alouettes have struggled in pass coverage this season and have been penalized the most for defensive pass interference.

Whichever way you cut this cake, I think the inside is Double Blue.


Return Game

Montreal’s Chandler Worthy has proven to be a special talent.

Creating a lasting memory at BMO Field after being cut several times by Toronto could be the cherry on top of what has been a standout season returning kicks in Montreal.



Kicking Game

Toronto punter John Haggerty will do everything in his power to twist Montreal’s Worthy in knots with his Aussie kicking style. While Boris Bede has the booming leg on kickoffs and field goal attempts, but has a below average field goal percentage.

Meanwhile, Montreal has better coverage units leading to a higher net punting average and David Cote isn’t afraid to smash a long field goal.

I really think this comes down to how many changes of possession come via the kicking game and how much of a factor the wind off Lake Ontario will be Sunday.


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