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CFL Preview - Montreal (4-7) vs. Hamilton (5-6)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 21, 4:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: A couple of East Division clubs trying to get back into the win column meet at Moncton Stadium in Moncton on Saturday afternoon, as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats entertain the Montreal Alouettes.

Both squads are under-achieving this season and are playing below .500 at the moment, but considering the fact that Toronto is the only team in the division with a winning record, perhaps these two slumping clubs are not completely out of the postseason picture just yet.

However, the prospects for the Alouettes continue to look more and more bleak, particularly with quarterback Anthony Calvillo still recovering from a head injury. Calvillo has been placed on the nine-game injured list which means Montreal is having to turn to a host of unproven performers.

Against British Columbia on the road last Sunday, the Alouettes struggled to find consistency at the position as Tanner Marsh and Josh Neiswander combined to hit on 23-of-40 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns, but both were sacked twice and the latter had a pair of attempts picked off, returned for a combined 83 yards in the 36-14 setback versus the Lions.

Montreal came up scoreless in the first half of the meeting and managed just 289 yards of total offense on 79 plays. In addition to a sluggish offense and numerous turnovers, the Als also were flagged 15 times for a loss of 115 yards.

S.J. Green and Brandon London both had receiving touchdowns for Montreal, but still the team bowed for the second straight game and third time in four tries.

As for the Tiger-Cats, who are currently in second place in the standings, they appeared to be on their way to a potential road win over Calgary during Week 12 action, ahead by nine points in the third quarter, but the defense allowed kicker Rene Paredes to get close enough for a pair of field goals and then watched as Bo Levi Mitchell hit Marquay McDaniel with the game-winning touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the 26-22 decision.

Hamilton, a loser in two of the last three outings, was paced by quarterback Henry Burris who converted 26-of-39 passes for 408 yards and a couple of majors, but he was picked off twice and sacked five times. Despite the rough treatment and the loss, Burris still reached a significant milestone as he became just the fifth player in CFL history to throw for at least 50,000 yards in his career.

The pass that put Burris over the threshold was a six-yard TD strike to Onrea Jones in the second quarter. Jones finished the outing with four catches for 38 yards, while the other aerial score landed in the hands of Andy Fantuz who grabbed six passes for 96 yards. C.J. Gable also had six receptions for a team-best 108 yards.

Burris, who leads the league with 3,589 yards passing and is the only quarterback in the CFL with more than 2,800 yards at this stage, needs only 346 more passing yards to pass Ron Lancaster for fourth on the CFL's all-time list. Seeing as how he has averaged 309 ypg passing in his 29 games as a Tiger-Cat, Burris should be moving up the charts within the next couple of weeks.

While Burris is certainly a top-notch passer in the league again this year, having thrown for at least 300 yards in each of his last five outings, defenses have been capitalizing a bit more on his mistakes recently, recording seven interceptions in the last four games. In the seven games prior, Burris had been picked off only four times.

While the Alouettes are well aware of who they are facing when they line up on defense, the same can't be said for Hamilton which is trying to figure out which quarterback will be taking the majority of the snaps for Montreal this time around. Marsh did have back-to-back games with more than 300 yards with Calvillo on the sidelines, but the youngster can be a wild gunslinger at times, one who has already tossed eight interceptions and is completing only 52.8 percent of his attempts.

The story doesn't get any better with Neiswander unfortunately, with him having been picked off five times and completing only 48.2 percent of his attempts to teammates.

Last season, these teams met a total of three times, with Hamilton taking two decisions and losing the other by just two points on the road during Week 9 action. With those outcomes the Als saw their advantage in the all-time series, one that takes into consideration only regular-season matchups going back to 1950, to reach 88-79-7.

This is the first of three meetings on the schedule between the teams here in 2013, with back-to-back contests awaiting during a six-day stretch in late October.

As long as Burris has the ball in his hands and is free to do as he pleases, the Tiger-Cats have the edge in this meeting. Should the Hamilton defense go on the attack and get after whomever is lining up under center for the Alouettes, this could turn into one ugly event.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 30, Montreal 21

09/18 14:16:32 ET

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