Schultz: Alouettes the favourite to make Grey Cup Final

Chris Schultz

6/15/2012 1:13:16 PM

Sometimes you go with logic, sometimes your instincts, and sometimes both. Both say to me that Montreal is going to win more than 10 games this year and make a run at the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto.

Usually at this time of year, conversation around the Alouettes about whether or not they can do it again. Whether they can create the energy, focus and effort to start fast, win the East Division early, and then win it all in the playoffs. Remember, before last year's 10-8 finish Montreal appeared in three straight Grey Cups, winning in 2009 and 2010.

Not last year. Their season wasn't necessarily good or bad, it was just different. They lost more games than normal to Hamilton and Winnipeg in the regular season before losing a home playoff game to the Tiger-Cats.

Right here, right now, it is easy to regenerate, refocus, and find the energy to compete. It is a different year and maybe a better year because everyone is better.

The challenge for Montreal is to play their best, not maintain their best. And yes, they have the best QB in the league. When it is all said and done, Anthony Calvillo will have all the records, all the wins, all the satisfaction any QB needs, and if his Alouettes win the 100th Grey Cup, I hope he retires.

I say that by no means out of disrespect, more out of the concerns of players like Marcus Howard out there. Last season, Howard hit Calvillo perhaps harder than I've seen any QB get hit. It was completely clean, football violence at its best, but you have to wonder what if. What if something happens, something you refuse to allow in your mind as a football player.

Calvillo was back the next week, and played as well as ever, but what if the previous hit affected future play, or worse, future health.
When it comes to class and dignity, Calvillo is No. 1, and I want him to stay that way.

Last year, Montreal was spectacular on offence: first in points scored, first in net offence, first in passing yards, first in second down conversions, and near the top of the league in all other offensive categories.

On defence, not the same story. Their run defence was very good but they struggled in pass defence: seventh in pass yards allowed and seventh in interceptions with just 13 in 18 games. Was it personnel or scheme? No, it was purely injuries to starters.

At one time Montreal lost five defensive backs to injury for the year. To lose one or two players is to be expected, even as much as five in different positions. But five players in one position group is devastating, and it was the single biggest reason for the team's 10-8 record and early playoff exit.

With Calvillo, RB Brandon Whitaker, and receiver Jamel Richardson, Montreal has the best skill position trio in the league. Other players will come and go, but with those three, Montreal will always be in the game by scoring more points than the opposition.

What is interesting this year will be Jeff Reinbold as the team's new defensive coordinator. Will his talent match his desires? Will his desires match the talent? With three other veteran QBs in the East this season (Buck Pierce, Henry Burris, and Ricky Ray) the division may come down to the team with the best defence. Is that Montreal?

There are certain things you can take for granted with Alouettes football. First, they will be very well prepared, head coach Marc Trestman will take care of that. Second, their QB will not be the reason they lose, nor the reason they win – Calvillo will take care of that. And as long as they are within six points with one play to go, they can still win; Richardson will take care of that.

The only thing that is uncertain is health and durability from one position to another, and only the football Gods can take care of that.

Early bet for the 100th Grey Cup: Montreal and BC. That would be a great game.