CFL Preview - Winnipeg (3-10) at Montreal (8-5)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Monday, October 8, 1:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Trying to avoid back-to-back defeats for just the second time this season, the Montreal Alouettes take the field on Monday afternoon at Stade Percival-Molson Stadium as they host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Montreal, which lost consecutive games against Hamilton and Toronto in July, has dropped only two games since, but one came against the Tiger-Cats last Sunday in a 41-28 final. Nevertheless, the Als are still alone in first place in the East Division standings, two points up on the Argonauts with five games remaining in the regular season.
As for the Blue Bombers, to say that this season has been a disappointment would definitely qualify as an understatement given where they were at the end of the 2011 campaign. With only three victories in 13 chances this year, Winnipeg has the fewest wins of any team in the league and is buried at the bottom of the East Division standings as a result.
Unfortunately, it seems to have gotten even worse for the Bombers as Buck Pierce was knocked out of the game against Toronto last week, the team en route to a 29-10 loss which was its fifth in the last six outings.
Watching from the sidelines for much of this season with an injury already, Pierce was back in action last week against the Argos, hitting 8-of-13 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown, but he took a vicious hit from Brandon Isaac which drew a 15-yard penalty, resulting in a mild concussion. At this stage it is unclear if Pierce, who has suffered numerous injuries during his career, will be able to make an appearance on Monday, but the one thing that is for sure is that the signal-caller believes the hit was malicious.
In any event, after Pierce departed Joey Elliott, who figures to be the starter this week if the former is unable to make it, converted 20-of-30 pass attempts for 173 yards, but he was picked off three times which prevented the Bombers from making a serious run in the lopsided affair.
Meanwhile, the Alouettes started out slow against Hamilton and found themselves down by two touchdowns entering the second quarter, which is not exactly the most comfortable position for any team. Nevertheless, Anthony Calvillo did his best to lead the comeback bid as he generated 197 yards and two touchdowns on just 12-of-23 passing. Unfortunately, the running attack was almost nonexistent, at least as far as yardage is concerned, the team coming up with a net of only 41 yards on 12 attempts, although Adrian McPherson and Chris Jennings did register rushing touchdowns of one and five yards, respectively.
Jamel Richardson caught five balls for 69 yards and a major, his fourth TD in his last five games after being held scoreless through the first five. Richardson, who missed three games with a hamstring injury, has registered four straight seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving, but he'll need to pick up the pace now to make that happen this year since he has but 631 yards on 42 grabs.
But if anyone can get it done Richardson can, especially since he has the most accomplished passer in CFL history delivering the ball to him. Calvillo, outside of one weak effort in late October last season when he threw for just 199 yards and was picked off three times, has owned the Blue Bombers in recent years. Even taking into account that lackluster performance, Calvillo has still thrown for 21 TDs and just four interceptions in the last nine meetings dating back to Nov. 1, 2009.
Should Elliott get the start for Winnipeg, it will be his first-ever action against the Alouettes, and there's a chance that might work to his advantage since the Montreal defense isn't exactly sure on who to plan for on Monday.
Then again, having shuffled three different signal-callers in and out of the lineup this season, the Bombers have had a lot of trouble getting everyone on the same page and that's reflected in their passing stats. Winnipeg is the only team in the league completing attempts at less than 60 percent (.580) and has far more INTs (16) than TDs (10), which has to be frustrating to receivers like Chris Matthews and Terrence Edwards who are putting together strong campaigns but could probably be doing so much more if there was some stability at quarterback.
Montreal has won two straight meetings and seven of the last nine clashes with Winnipeg, including a 36-26 triumph in early August on the road. Taking into consideration only regular season games, the Als own a 45-34-2 advantage in the all-time series dating back to 1946.
Expect the Montreal defense to get after whomever the Blue Bombers have stepping in to play quarterback this time around, giving Calvillo even more opportunities to pick apart the Winnipeg defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 31, Winnipeg 17
10/03 11:23:53 ET