SPORTS

Alouettes look to gain sweep of home-and-home series with Blue Bombers

07/03/2013 03:41 EDT | Updated 09/02/2013 05:12 EDT
Anthony Calvillo and the Montreal Alouettes are primed to record the rare sweep.

The Alouettes host Winnipeg in their home opener Thursday fresh off a 38-33 road win that spoiled the Blue Bombers' debut at Investors Group Field last week.

What makes sweeping a home-and-home series difficult is traditionally clubs tend to play much better in their own building. However, Calvillo and Co. took care of that in Winnipeg, withstanding the Bombers' 20-point third-quarter outburst before rallying from a nine-point deficit with two fourth-quarter TDs to claim the win.

Last season, Montreal was 7-2 at home and 6-2 versus East Division competition, the only club to have a better than .500 record within the conference.

And while some will suggest that was 2012, consider the '13 Blue Bombers look much like last year's squad that posted a 6-12 record and was 1-7 versus East Division competition.

Calvillo was 20-of-35 passing for 264 yards with a TD and interception in Winnipeg, hardly decent numbers by his lofty standards. The expectation is he and his teammates will play better at Molson Stadium.

Brandon Whitaker, the 2011 CFL rushing leader, is expected to make his 2013 debut for Montreal.

Winnipeg starter Buck Pierce was 19-of-34 passing for 258 yards and two TDs, but also had three interceptions and was sacked three times. What's more, the Bombers mustered just 38 yards rushing on 10 attempts.

Despite surrendering 38 points, Winnipeg's defence recorded five sacks and an interception.

Pick - Montreal.

Toronto Argonauts at B.C. Lions (Thursday night)

The defending Grey Cup champions have struggled in Vancouver, having dropped their last 10 games there dating back to July 9, 2002.

What's more, Toronto faces a B.C. team coming off a less-than-stellar season-opening performance. The Calgary Stampeders beat the Lions 44-32 at McMahon Stadium last week, a game the visitors made close with a late TD.

The Lions' defence had no answer for Calgary running back Jon Cornish, as last year's top Canadian rushed for 172 yards and two TDs on 24 carries.

B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay was 21-of-38 passing for 283 yards and three TDs but was sacked three times by Calgary's Charleston Hughes. Emmanuel Arceneaux had three catches for a game-high 103 yards and a touchdown for the Lions.

Toronto earned a 39-34 win over Hamilton as quarterback Ricky Ray was named the CFL's offensive player of the week after passing for 368 yards and four TDs. The Argos' revamped defence — with just five returnees — surrendered 31 first-half points, including 21 in the first quarter, but gave up just a field goal in the second half.

The game will mark the return of Argos defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell, who was dealt in the off-season to Toronto by the Lions.

Pick - B.C.

Calgary Stampeders at Saskatchewan Roughriders (Friday night)

A rematch of last year's West Division semifinal, which the Stampeders won 36-30 en route to qualifying for the 100th Grey Cup. Both teams are coming off season-opening victories as Saskatchewan beat Edmonton 39-18 on Saturday.

Unfortunately for Saskatchewan, veteran slotback Geroy Simon won't make his Riders' debut. Simon, obtained in an off-season trade with B.C., missed last week's season opener with a leg injury.

Saskatchewan's defence was solid against Edmonton with three sacks and three interceptions. However, Eskimos slotback Fred Stamps had six catches for a game-high 125 yards and a TD.

Calgary's defence will have to contain Riders running back Kory Sheets, who ran for 131 yards and a TD against Edmonton.

Pick - Calgary.

Edmonton Eskimos at Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Sunday night)

Hamilton makes its regular-season debut at Alumni Stadium in Guelph, Ont., needing a more consistent defensive effort to register its first win of the year.

Hamilton surrendered nearly 500 total yards last week versus Toronto, including 112 yards rushing by Grey Cup MVP Chad Kackert. Defensive back James Patrick was the Ticats' leading tackler with eight, which speaks volumes.

Hamilton's defensive performance tarnished a solid season debut by quarterback Henry Burris, who threw for 361 yards and three TDs and had a potential game-winning toss go off Andy Fantuz's hands on the final play against Toronto.

Fantuz had 10 catches for 155 yards, both game highs, while rookie Greg Ellingson added six receptions for 120 yards. Also, first-year returner Lindsey Lamar had a 104-yard kickoff return TD to make Ticats fans forget Chris Williams, the CFL's top special-teams player last year still embroiled in a contract dispute.

Eskimos starter Mike Reilly must be better in his second game under centre although with Stamps and running back Hugh Charles he has some solid offensive weapons to work with. Edmonton came into the season with questions about a revamped offensive line and those still exist.

Edmonton hurt itself against Saskatchewan with untimely penalties and mistakes, a deadly combination for a young squad.

Pick - Hamilton.

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