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CFL Preview - Hamilton (8-7) at Montreal (6-9)

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Sunday, October 20, 1 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: With plenty of postseason implications running through Week 17 action in the CFL, one of the key matchups finds the Hamilton Tiger-Cats clashing with the Montreal Alouettes on Sunday afternoon at Molson Stadium.

Hamilton, which has already sewn up a playoff appearance and is currently sitting in second place in the East Division standings, just two points behind Toronto, has won two straight and three of the last four outings, enjoying back-to-back victories for the first time in two months.

As for the Alouettes, a team which fired their new head coach (Dan Hawkins) just weeks into the campaign and also lost future HOF quarterback Anthony Calvillo to injury, they are still in the playoff picture even though they had a two-game win streak snapped on Monday by Winnipeg and are three games below .500 overall.

In all honesty, Montreal still has life only because Winnipeg and Edmonton have been so dismal this season with both squads sporting 3-12 records after 16 weeks of action.

Unfortunately for the Als, there wasn't much Thanksgiving celebration on the football field earlier this week when the team bowed to Winnipeg at home by a score of 34-27. Quarterback Josh Neiswander made the start again for Montreal, hitting on half of his 38 pass attempts for 199 yards, but he was picked off three times and took a seat on the bench at one point in favor of Troy Smith.

Smith attempted only six passes, converting three, but one of those went for a 12-yard TD to S.J. Green in the second quarter. In addition to logging the first CFL passing score of his career, Smith also tossed an interception as turnovers continued to hamper the Als and their pursuits.

Tyrell Sutton scored on a one-yard run in the second frame for Montreal, but the team overall generated just 75 yards on 19 attempts in the setback.

As for the Tiger-Cats, they too played on the Canadian holiday, but in their case they came up with a 24-18 triumph over visiting Toronto in the day's later game. Hamilton, which was held scoreless in the fourth quarter, saw quarterback Henry Burris complete 27-of-36 passes for 350 yards, but he failed to get one of those connections into the end zone.

Instead, it was backup signal caller Dan LeFevour who stepped in and crossed the goal line on two of his four rushing attempts. C.J. Gable added another TD on the ground, a two-yard effort in the third frame, while accounting for a game-high 118 yards rushing overall.

Luke Tasker reeled in seven balls for a game-high 113 yards to help the Cats maintain possession of the ball for more than 37 minutes. The team as a whole generated 545 yards of total offense, offsetting eight penalties for a loss of 72 yards.

Burris has been churning out passing yards all season long for the Ticats and is currently first in the league with his 4.523 yards on 66.2 percent accuracy. The Temple University product is closing in on his second straight season with at least 5,000 passing yards, the third of his career overall, but huge passing yardage totals don't always tell the whole story.

Unfortunately, while Burris has joined the 50,000-yard passing club this season, he hasn't shown the same touch that he did a year ago when he tossed a career-best 43 touchdowns and produced an efficiency rating of 104.4. At the moment, the gunslinger has but 22 aerial majors and 17 picks, the latter being the most for any quarterback in the league.

In terms of the all-time series between the teams, one that takes into account only regular-season dates stretching back to 1950, the Als hold an 88-80-7 edge even after losing the most recent encounter to Hamilton, 28-26, in Moncton last month.

The Cats, who have won two straight and three of the last four meetings, scored 15 points in the fourth quarter against Montreal in the last matchup. Kicker Brett Lauther was a key figure for Hamilton as he converted all four of his field goal chances and finished with 14 points overall.

Burris converted 15-of-27 passes for 176 yards, but he failed to throw a touchdown while being picked off once and sacked four times. Instead, it was Andy Fantuz who was credited with a 10-yard TD strike to Marc Beswick in the second quarter.

For Montreal, a squad which had to deal with 16 penalties for a loss of 94 yards, it was Neiswander who kept the squad close with 294 yards and two TDs through the air, while Troy Smith tacked on a rushing score as well. Duron Carter finished with game highs of nine receptions and 112 yards for the Alouettes.

With a win the Tiger-Cats will clinch a home playoff game, but should Montreal come out on top, or Winnipeg bow to Toronto, then the Als would lock up a playoff berth. Clearly there's a lot riding on this game for both teams, but with so many backups and reserves being forced into key roles for the Alouettes, a victory just doesn't seem likely this time around.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 27, Montreal 24

10/16 10:48:39 ET

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