55 Yard Line

Argos and Alouettes meet Sunday in a battle of struggling East Division teams

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

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Can Jarious Jackson lead the Argonauts to a win over Montreal Sunday?

The top two teams in the CFL's East Division are set to face off Sunday (1 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPN3), but the recent form of the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes isn't all that inspiring. The Alouettes have lost two games in a row and gave last week's clash away to Winnipeg (3-10 before that game) to Monday thanks to a raft of turnovers in a 27-22 loss, while the Argonauts were blown out 36-10 by Saskatchewan later than day. Neither team has exactly been dominant on the year, either; Montreal's 8-6 with a -23 point differential, while Toronto's 7-7 with a -30 differential. Still, someone has to win the East Division, and Sunday's game's may play a substantial role in determining which team that is.

Although the Alouettes have the better record on the year and only lost by five points last week, there are several factors that weigh against them. Most notably, they've been utterly dreadful on the road this year, putting up just a 2-6 record away from Molson Stadium. That loss to Winnipeg also was pretty uninspiring, considering the Bombers' season-long struggles (which were on display again Saturday) and the five turnovers Montreal committed in the process. The Alouettes will again be without top rusher Brandon Whitaker and top receiver S.J. Green thanks to injury, and when you throw in that their defence had conceded the most passing first downs on the year (196) heading into this week and was allowing a league-high opposing passing completion percentage of 68.3 per cent, there isn't a lot to get excited about on Montreal's side.

However, the Argonauts have plenty of problems of their own. For one, they'll again be starting Jarious Jackson thanks to Ricky Ray's injury issues, and while Jackson shone in his first game two weeks ago against Winnipeg, he came up very short against Saskatchewan last week. In that game, Jackson only completed 16 of his 31 passes (51.6 per cent)  for 162 yards with a touchdown and an interception. If he plays that way again, even the Alouettes' terrible pass defence won't have anything to fear. Moreover, homefield advantage hasn't been as big of a factor for Toronto as it has for most teams; the Argos are 3-3 at home and 4-4 on the road. They're also without top running back Chad Kackert (Gerald Riggs Jr. will fill in again) and second-leading receiver Dontrelle Inman, and they lost the last meeting between these teams 31-10 in September. Chad Owens might make something spectacular happen in the return game, but that seems like the biggest edge the Argos could hope for.

Despite its lack of terrific selling points, this is still an important game. For one thing, it's certainly going to determine the winner of the season series between Montreal and Toronto, and that could be a crucial tiebreaker. This game also could determine who finishes first in the East and gets a bye through the first round of the playoffs, and that could be a substantial edge, perhaps especially if the in-form Edmonton Eskimos wind up crossing over to the East. If the Alouettes win, they'll be two games up on Toronto with control of the tiebreaker and just three to go, so they'll have the division title all but sewn up. An Argonauts' win wouldn't be as decisive, as it would merely move them into a tie with Montreal, but it would give them the tiebreaker, so they'd just have to outdo the Alouettes down the stretch. Either way, this clash could easily tip the balance of power in the East, and it may come down to which team struggles least Sunday.

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