SLAM! Sports SLAM! CFL Football



CFL Preview - Montreal (1-6) at Winnipeg (5-3)

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Friday, August 22, 8:30 p.m. (ET).

GAME NOTES: The motto for Montreal these days is "Strength in Numbers," the only problem is the Alouettes are losing parts and losing games as a result.

This week the Als see how well they can hold up as they hit the road to face off against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field.

Montreal knew 2014 would be a trying season, what with the retirement of quarterback Anthony Calvillo, but few thought the team would hit the skids so violently.

The Als were hoping to get some positive returns from Troy Smith, a former Heisman Trophy winner while at Ohio State, but he has not panned out. In fact, he is now on the six-game injured list, which means Alex Brink is now the quarterback of record.

Last week, the Als suffered their fifth straight loss and the sixth setback in seven tries on the season, bowing at Saskatchewan in a 16-11 final.

Brink was serviceable as he converted 19-of-31 passes for 187 yards, was intercepted once and sacked three times. The signal caller also ran for a team-best 32 yards on three carries, which might not be the best idea these days given the state of quarterback play in Montreal.

The lone highlight for the Alouettes came in the fourth quarter when Duron Carter secured a missed field goal and returned it 123 yards to the end zone, accounting for the only major of the game for Montreal and drawing the team into a tie with the Roughriders for the time being.

The active roster for the Alouettes now includes quarterbacks Tanner Marsh and Jonathan Crompton, along with Brink. Not surprisingly, the Montreal passing attack ranks dead last in the CFL still, showing an awful efficiency rating of 59.0, stemming from a mere 47.9 percent completion rate and four touchdowns against six interceptions in seven games.

As for Brink, who previously played three seasons with the Blue Bombers, he is a career 56.1 percent passer and has more picks (15) than touchdowns (13) at the moment.

While Montreal is in dire straights, tied with the likes of Hamilton and Ottawa for last place in the East Division standings at a mere 1-6, the Blue Bombers are stuck in a real race for West Division supremacy. Winnipeg is currently tied with British Columbia for last place in the division, but the fact that all five teams are separated by just two points means anything can happen during the second half of the campaign.

Unfortunately for the Bombers, it wasn't that long ago that they were at the other end of the standings, thanks to a 5-1 start. However, last week the team suffered a second straight setback in a 38-21 decision at Toronto.

The Winnipeg defense surrendered three touchdowns in the second quarter alone and another 17 points in the final frame, permitting 471 yards of total offense to the hosts. The Bombers didn't do themselves any favors by being flagged for 14 penalties (114 yards), but that was balanced out by the 17 miscues that cost the Argos 122 yards.

Drew Willy converted 23-of-31 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns, but was also sacked four times. Running back Nic Grigsby accounted for a team-best 66 yards and a major on seven rushing attempts.

Grigsby now leads the CFL in rushing through eight weeks with 416 yards on 97 carries, leading to five touchdowns. Willy has become a strong complement to the ground attack by placing second in the league with 2,158 yards through the air, resulting in 10 TDs, but he has also been intercepted seven times along the way.

Tracing this relationship back to 1961 and only taking into consideration regular-season bouts, Montreal maintains a 46-39-2 advantage even though the Bombers won the most recent meeting earlier this season by a score of 34-33 on the road, and have taken five of the last six encounters overall.

In that first meeting back in July, Winnipeg pulled off the game-winning score, an 18-yard TD pass from Willy to Julian Feoli-Gudino with less than a minute remaining in regulation. Willy went 24-of-38 for 256 yards and was sacked four times.

In addition to some key kicking points tallied by Lirim Hajrullahu, Winnipeg also picked up majors as Desia Dunn returned a fumble 70 yards to the end zone and Chris Randle brought back an interception back 28 yards for the visitors.

Montreal, which crippled itself with a staggering 18 penalties for a loss of 180 yards (Winnipeg had 15 flags for 148), saw Smith throw for 309 yards and three touchdowns, but was sacked four times and tossed that one costly pick.

Winnipeg may be just another team in the West Division at the moment, but against a lost squad like the Alouettes, it only makes sense to favor the Blue Bombers this week.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Winnipeg 31, Montreal 17

08/20 15:28:35 ET

powered by