TORONTO — The 2022 CFL schedule has been a quirky one for head coach Ryan Dinwiddie and the Toronto Argonauts.
It began with Toronto having a bye twice in its first five weeks — including to open the season. It also featured facing archrival Hamilton four times in a five-week span.
The Argos are now coming off a final bye week visiting the Ottawa Redblacks on Saturday for a second straight time. Toronto went into the bye following a 24-19 road win over Ottawa on Sept. 10.
But a big reason why the Argos (7-5) top the East Division is that they've managed to take care of business within the conference. Five of their wins have come against divisional rivals — including three against Hamilton — and Toronto has beaten all three Eastern rivals en route to a 5-2 inter-conference record.
"You can complain about it (schedule) or you can find a way to make it work," Dinwiddie said Monday. "Each year is different but that's your schedule and you have to find ways to overcome whatever you think isn't advantageous for you as a football club.
"You've got to understand the importance of those games. It's tough to beat an opponent twice in a row, we all know that. But if you can it puts you in the driver's seat to kind of control the division … it's definitely interesting."
A win Saturday, combined with a Hamilton loss Friday in Montreal, would secure Toronto a playoff berth as well as give it the season series with Ottawa. The Argos will complete their three-game season series versus the Alouettes with a home-and-home set to conclude the regular season (Oct. 22-29).
Montreal (5-7) is second in the East, just two points ahead of Hamilton (4-9) with a game in hand. Ottawa (3-9) is fourth but also remains in playoff contention.
Neither Montreal (2-3), Hamilton (3-4) nor Ottawa (2-3) have winning records within the East Division.
Toronto is 2-3 versus West Division teams, with both wins coming against Saskatchewan. Included among the Argos final six regular-season contests are matchups against Calgary (Oct. 1), B.C. (Oct. 8) and Edmonton (Oct. 15).
Saturday's contest will cap a stretch for the Argos that will have seen them play seven-of-eight games against East Division teams (Hamilton four times, Redblacks three times).
The bad news for Toronto is it has just two home games remaining — Oct. 8 versus B.C. and Oct. 29 against Montreal. The Argos have a 4-3 home record (including their 30-24 win over Saskatchewan at Wolfville, N.S. on July 16) but haven't played at BMO Field since rallying from a 16-10 halftime deficit to down Hamilton 37-20 on Aug. 26 before a season-high gathering of 14,963.
This marks Toronto's final regular-season bye, meaning it will play in each of the final six weeks of the campaign. Should the Argos finish the year first in the East, they'll secure an opening-round playoff bye and host the conference final Nov. 13.
Toronto clinched first in the East last year but lost 27-19 to Hamilton in the conference final at BMO Field. Finishing second would earn the Argos home field for the conference semifinal Nov. 6, but in that scenario, they'd have to play nine straight weeks to win the Grey Cup.
Toronto played nine straight games before its final regular-season bye. So while it's possible, Dinwiddie said it's not ideal.
"It's up to us now to earn another bye week," he said. "If we don't do what we need to do, it's going to be tough toward the end."
Toronto resumed practising Monday, a day after signing American defensive lineman Damontre Moore, a 10-year NFL veteran.
The six-foot-four, 260-pound Moore played for seven NFL teams (including Seattle twice), registering 97 tackles, 11 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 66 regular-season games. Dinwiddie said Moore, 30, could play for Toronto as early as Saturday.
"I think he's a rotational guy who can play inside and outside," Dinwiddie said. "We have to see where he is in terms of how he picks up the defence and those things but he's been in the NFL for 10 years, I'm sure he can pick it up.
"We've had an eye on him since training camp … we feel good about our pass rush but we know he can make it better as well."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2022.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press