SPORTS

Argonauts, Alouettes can cement East Division playoff berths with victory

10/29/2014 12:48 EDT | Updated 12/29/2014 05:59 EST
It's pretty simple for the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes on Sunday: a win equals a ticket to the playoffs.

Toronto (7-9) visits Montreal (8-8) for its first road game in five weeks. The Argos went 3-1 on a recent homestand, including a 26-24 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday that gave them the season series with their longtime rivals.

But it wasn't pretty as Toronto had four turnovers (three fumbles, interception) and was penalized 12 times. Then again, turnovers and penalties have been the Argos' nemesis all season.

A win Sunday would secure Toronto the season series, which is the tiebreaker should the Argos and Als finish with identical records. If the Argos finish the regular season by beating Montreal and then Ottawa on Nov. 7, it will take first in the East and host the division final.

Montreal can clinch a playoff berth — for the 19th straight year — with a win. And the combination of a victory over Toronto and Hamilton loss Friday night to Ottawa would give the Alouettes top spot in the East.

That would be remarkable after Montreal's dismal 1-7 start this season. The Als will conclude their regular season Nov. 8 in Hamilton against a Ticats team that's unbeaten at Tim Hortons Field.

The Als, Argos and Ticats are battling for just two East Division playoff spots as the fourth-place finisher in the West Division — B.C. or Saskatchewan — will cross over and become the third Eastern post-season seed.

Idle Saskatchewan (9-8) has clinched a playoff berth and will be on the road for either the East or West semifinal game.

Montreal comes in with a 5-3 home record while Toronto is just 2-6 away from Rogers Centre. The Alouettes are also 5-1 within the East Division while the Argos are 3-3.

Toronto's lone loss on its homestand was a 20-12 decision to Montreal on Oct. 18. The Alouettes' defence was stellar, forcing three turnovers and holding the Argos to four field goals as CFL passing leader Ricky Ray threw for just 202 yards with an interception.

Jonathan Crompton was 19-of-28 passing for just 219 yards and a TD and fumbled three times — losing one — but still led Montreal to its fifth straight win. Crompton is 6-1 as the Als starter despite having yet to throw for over 300 yards in a game.

It's the Als' defence that has anchored the five-game win streak, having allowed just 60 points over that span. And Toronto's penchant for turnovers doesn't bode well against a defensive unit that's recovered 21 fumbles and forced 44 takeaways, both league highs.

Pick — Montreal

Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Ottawa Redblacks, 7:30 p.m., ET on Friday night.

Hamilton (7-9) could have clinched a playoff berth last weekend in Toronto but now must win its final two regular-season games to reach the post-season. The Ticats are 2-0 this season against expansion Ottawa (2-14) . Newcomer Nic Grigsby had just six yards rushing on six carries versus the Argos. It's expected the Redblacks will be auditioning talent for next year, which could pose continuity problems.

Pick — Hamilton

Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Calgary Stampeders, 4 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon.

What started so positively comes to a crashing halt for Winnipeg (6-11). The Bombers opened the season 5-1 but have just one victory since and dropped eight straight. Quarterback Drew Willy was sacked 10 times in last weekend's 28-23 loss to B.C. Calgary (14-2) has clinched first in the West and can rest key veterans but roster depth has been key for a team that's a CFL-best 7-1 at McMahon Stadium.

Pick — Calgary

B.C. Lions at Edmonton Eskimos, 7 p.m. ET, on Saturday night.

Edmonton (11-5) can clinch second in the West with a win and home field for the division semifinal. B.C. (9-7) is battling Saskatchewan for third although both teams have cemented post-season berths. Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian needs just six tackles to break the CFL single-season record of 130. Both defences are outstanding, which could lead to a low-scoring affair.

Pick — Edmonton

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Last week — 4-0

Overall — 50-23

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