Tuesday, February 20, 2024
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CFL Preview: Montreal Alouettes (7-7-0) at Ottawa RedBlacks (4-10-0)

OTTAWA — The stakes are simple for the Montreal Alouettes as they head into TD Place to take on the Ottawa REDBLACKS on Saturday: win and they’re in.

Montreal should be feeling good heading out on the road after they snapped their four-game losing streak with a 28-11 victory in Calgary in Week 16.

As for the REDBLACKS, the time is now for them to make their move.

Fresh off a 36-28 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they’ll be going for two in a row at home.

In the air for the Als, quarterback Cody Fajardo can look multiple ways as his receiving corps features several options. However, it’ll be without its biggest piece as the league’s leading receiver, Austin Mack, is out with a thigh issue. That means Fajardo will watch for an open Tyson Philpot or Tyler Snead on his first read. With Ottawa being the only team to have allowed over 4,000 passing yards — 4,514 to be exact — head coach Jason Maas’ game plan should centre around his quarterback.

Downfield it’ll be up to Otttawa defensive backs Alonzo Addae, Brandin Dandridge and Deandre Lamont to keep the receivers under control. Lamont picked off a pair of Jake Dolegala passes in their win and should be carrying confidence into the game.

The defence can’t count out the impact William Stanback can have as he rushed for 81 yards a week ago. He’ll be put to the test against a front that’s second best at limiting yards on the ground.

Defensive lineman Bryce Carter sits second in the CFL with 11 sacks and linebacker Adam Auclair leads the team with 65 defensive tackles.

Under centre for Ottawa, quarterback Dustin Crum has continued to round out his game in the REDBLACKS pocket. With 234 passing yards against the Riders, he now has 2,334 on the season.

While the REDBLACKS’ pass game still ranks last, averaging just 212.2 yards per game, the play of Jaelon Acklin and Justin Hardy provides reason for optimism as the pair have 747 and 709 receiving yards, respectively.

Crum isn’t surprised at the improved air attack and expects it to continue this week.

Montreal defensive back Marc-Antoine Dequoy had an interception against Calgary and will be relied upon to shut down the likes of Acklin and Hardy. Limiting opposing receivers has been an aspect of the defence the Als have been respectable at, holding their opponents to 245.4 yards a game.

As moving the ball through the air is a work in progress for the REDBLACKS, the Alouettes’ defensive front needs to be prepared for an explosive ground game. Devonte Williams continues to climb up the rushing yard leaderboard with 758 on the season, including 136 yards on 22 carries against the Riders; and don’t forget that Crum is more than comfortable taking off in open space.

Als’ general manager Danny Maciocia has put an emphasis on bolstering his team’s front over the past several weeks and it’s paying dividends as linebacker Darnell Sankey has 15 defensive tackles through two games and defensive lineman Shawn Lemon has seven sacks and two interceptions, including one last week, in nine games since signing in Montreal.

With their seven-game losing streak snapped, REDBLACKS’ head coach Bob Dyce wants his team to take it one game at a time as the regular season nears its conclusion.

A win and the Montreal can assure themselves they’ll be playing in November, while an Ottawa victory puts them two points behind Hamilton for third in the East Division.

Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET. Canadian viewers can tune in on TSN/RDS, while American and international viewers can watch the game on CFL+.

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