LIVESTREAM CFL: Montreal Alouettes @ Toronto Argonauts, Sept. 9, 19:00 CET (7 pm, 1 pm EDT)

TORONTO — The Toronto Argonauts return home to BMO Field to face the Montreal Alouettes in the first game of a Saturday tripleheader. 

The Argonauts have looked every bit the class of the East Division this season, rolling to a 9-1 record. They took down QEW rival Hamilton, 41-28, in their Labour Day Classic showdown last week and are now a win away from clinching a playoff berth.

On the other sideline, the Alouettes come into the contest aiming to end a mini two-game slide. Their most recent loss came at the hands of the BC Lions.

This week’s matchup is the first of a home-and-home that has major implications on the division race.

» Depth Chart: TOR | MTL

Having faced each other once already when Toronto used 28 second half points to win 35-27, familiarity won’t be an issue.

Chad Kelly had one of his best games of the season in that one, throwing for 351 yards and three touchdowns. Kelly’s success in the pass game is partially thanks to receivers Kurleigh Gittens Jr.DaVaris Daniels and Damonte Coxie, who have all been reliable options throughout the campaign.

It’s no secret the Argos offence is centred around their talented run game. AJ Ouellette rushed for 95 yards in Montreal and had 79 last week to bring his season total to 710.

Coming of a game where they coughed up 427 yards of net offence, Alouettes head coach Jason Maas is seeking a better overall defensive performance.

Watch live. Montreal Alouettes @ Toronto Argonauts, Sept. 9, 19:00 CET (7 pm, 1 pm EDT)

They failed to force a turnover in BC but defensive back Marc-Antoine Dequoy did pick off a Kelly pass on July 14. Kabion EntoKordell Rodgers and the recently returned Ciante Evans have to step up to cover the field as Kelly tries to spread the offence from sideline to sideline.

Defensive lineman Shawn Lemon wasn’t in the lineup the first time around and has steadied a front that has a league low 19 sacks and is in the bottom half of the league in rushing yards allowed. Fellow lineman Mustafa Johnson and linebackers Tyrice Beverette and Frederic Chagnon will also look to apply pressure up front.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo lines up against a defence that’s surrendering over 300 yards per game through the air after throwing for 308 of his own against the Lions.

If there’s an area for improvement, it’s taking care of the football as he threw a pair of interceptions. With Robertson Daniel and Jamal Peters, who had a pick against Hamilton, lurking downfield, Fajardo has to make smart reads.

Head coach Jason Maas is looking forward to the challenge the Argos will pose.

“Our guys are battling and I love the way our guys play,” Maas told reporters. “They’re all key games down the stretch. The season’s not over so we take it one at a time. We just have to keep battling and trying to win games.”

Receiver Austin Mack exploded for 143 yards against a stout Lions defence and Tyler Snead and Cole Spieker had impressive games.

If the Argos are keying in on Mack in the secondary, the focus on the ground will be on William Stanback after he rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown in their loss a week ago. It was his second 100-plus yard game this season.

Despite some strong performances, Maas is searching for better execution in the red zone.

“It’s hard to win games when you’re kicking field goals,” Maas told reporters. “At the end of the day our red zone offence isn’t very good. It hasn’t been all year and it starts with me. I’m the play caller. I have to start picking better plays to call and we have to do a better job coaching them.”

The job of stopping Stanback falls on the shoulders of linemen Brandon BarlowDeionte Knight, Shawn Oakman, Folarin Orimolade and linebacker Adarius Pickett, all of whom had a sack in Hamilton.

The Argos can put eight points between themselves and the Alouettes with a victory.

If the Als hope to keep their division title hopes alive, they need a win to close the gap to four.

Watch live. Montreal Alouettes @ Toronto Argonauts, Sept. 9, 19:00 CET (7 pm, 1 pm EDT)

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