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CFL Preview - Hamilton (3-4) at Montreal (4-3)

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Thursday, August 23, 7:30 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: Despite having allowed more points than they've scored through the first seven games of the 2012 CFL campaign, the Montreal Alouettes still find themselves tied for first place in the East Division as they entertain the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Stade Percival-Molson Stadium on Thursday night.

Montreal, which has the same overall record as Toronto at this point in the season, has managed to capture four wins in seven opportunities even though it has given up 213 points and scored just 202 thus far. However, last week the squad drummed up a second straight double-digit victory, thanks to a 38-25 romp over Edmonton, to narrow the cap in the scoring differential column.

In that matchup, quarterback Anthony Calvillo erupted for three straight passing touchdowns to begin the meeting and before the Eskimos knew what hit them they were trailing 28-0 midway through the second quarter. Calvillo connected on 22-of-32 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns overall, offsetting a pair of interceptions. S.J. Green reeled in a game-high 10 passes for 136 yards and a major for the victors.

Seeing his first significant action of the season for Montreal was Victor Anderson, who ran for a game-high 102 yards and also produced another 32 receiving yards on three catches as well.

From a defensive standpoint, the Alouettes held Edmonton to just 272 yards of total offense, intercepted three passes, recovered a fumble and also logged five sacks of Steven Jyles.

As for Hamilton, it is just behind the Als in the division standings and like Montreal has surrendered more points than it has scored at this stage of the game. Last week the defense for the Tiger-Cats had a major let-down in the second half versus Winnipeg, allowing the Blue Bombers to generate 25 points in 30 minutes, en route to a 32-25 victory over visiting Hamilton.

Quarterback Henry Burris tried to keep the 'Cats in contention with 368 yards and two touchdowns through the air, but he was also sacked three times while the running game for Hamilton generated just 71 yards. The team's leading rusher on the season, Chevon Walker, gained a mere 17 yards on seven carries and now that he has come up lame, former Montreal running back Avon Cobourne is chomping at the bit to get back on the field and has been taking snaps with the first team in practice as a result.

Chris Williams also had a strong game for the Tiger-Cats as he turned a mere five receptions into 160 yards and two majors, scoring on a 72-yard punt return as well in the setback.

Against a team which had won only once through the first six games of the season and was starting a new quarterback, perhaps the Tiger-Cats were caught napping a bit as they permitted Joey Elliott to throw for 406 yards and a touchdown.

Hamilton's pass defense is now sixth in the league with just over 300 yards allowed per game, not exactly the sort of effort you want to be displaying with the all-time passing leader in professional football waiting to take his shots down the field this week. Perhaps even worse than the yards allowed is the fact that the 'Cats are last in the league in interceptions with only three. That lack of coverage doesn't do the group any good because as a whole, Hamilton's defense has been on the field for 576 snaps, the most of any unit through seven games.

Put it altogether and Hamilton's 32.9 ppg allowed, most in the CFL, shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Although, seeing that the team is first in the league in scoring (29.6 ppg) might be a bit of a stunner.

Maybe the only positive heading into this week for the Tiger-Cats is the fact that Montreal is not that far behind in points allowed (30.4 ppg), which means the game could be competitive.

The defense may not be up to snuff for the Alouettes these days, but the great equalizer has always been Calvillo and how he can dissect the opposition in order to put Montreal in a position to win more often than not.

Forget the fact that Calvillo is one of the oldest players in the league and maybe it is easier to grasp the fact that he is again tops in overall passing yardage (2,328) and one of the leading passers in terms of touchdowns (17) and efficiency rating (106.2). Perhaps his overall accuracy (.632) isn't where it should be compared to years gone by, but still he is a dominant figure in the game and opponents have to constantly plan for his next attack.

Hamilton won the first meeting of the season back in July by a score of 39-24 at home, as Burris played near-flawless football by going 27-of-30 for 360 yards and four touchdowns. Calvillo had a strong game for Montreal on the other side with 374 yards and three scores, but he was sacked twice and intercepted once in the losing cause.

As a result of that meeting at Ivor Wynne Stadium, the all-time, regular-season series between the two clubs now stands at 87-78-7 in favor of the Als dating back to 1950, with Hamilton having won four of the last six matchups.

Considering these teams both have strong offenses and weak defenses, this is a game that could see some outrageous stats. Surely the duel between the two quarterbacks will steal the show, but in front of the hometown crowd it is a game that is Calvillo's to dictate.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 42, Hamilton 31

08/22 11:12:30 ET

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