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Maas looks to keep Alouettes focused while big favourites in home opener

Walter Fletcher Montreal Alouettes Walter Fletcher - The Canadian Press

The undefeated Montreal Alouettes enter their home opener Thursday as heavy favourites over the Ottawa Redblacks.

Head coach Jason Maas doesn't believe that's important. It isn't part of the culture he's cultivating.

"It doesn't matter in this building if we're favourites. We don't look at that." he said Wednesday on The Morning Show on TSN 690 Montreal..

Maas joined the show to discuss the team's early success this season, their path to repeat as Grey Cup champions and the encouraging performance of running back Walter Fletcher.

Montreal opened their season with two games on the road against Western Division opponents - a 27-12 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the season opener, and a 23-20 victory over the Edmonton Elks last Friday.

"The hardest part is going out West for two games and coming home on a short week, that's the hardest part," Maas said. "I'll tell you this: the motivation and the excitement of our team, being at home, is at an all-time high. I think everyone is juiced up for this one."

Montreal entered last season given low expectations by most pundits. They had to rattle off five straight wins to close the season just to qualify as the second seed for the playoffs out of the Eastern Division.

Now with two consecutive wins to open the season on the road, and 10 straight dating back to last season including playoffs, Montreal is in the unusual spot of favourite.

"If you're wondering what other people think about you, you're probably wrong," Maas said. "When other people were thinking we're underdogs, we never felt that way. We believe we're top dogs, but work like underdogs; that's the way we approach things."

While most of the Alouettes championship roster returned this season, one key piece did not: running back William Stanback requested release during the off-season, and is playing for the BC Lions this year.

His replacement, Fletcher, has been a revelation this season after spending each of the previous two campaigns as a backup.

"When he was in the lineup last year, there was glimpses in every single game of doing what he showed last week - a catch here, a run there," Maas said. "He's just getting the opportunity now to be the guy every single day."

Fletcher scored two long touchdowns to push the Alouettes to victory against the Elks, finishing with 143 yards on 15 touches. 

"He had a tremendous off-season, came in in great shape, we knew what kind of individual we were getting ... Now it's his time and those two plays are kind of what we expect of him," Maas said.

The Alouettes have dominated the turnover margin battle on their current 10-game winning streak, with an impressive differential of +21. 

"We preach ball security and ball violence every single day in our practices," Maas said. "We tell our defence: 'If you can go for the ball, go for it," we talk to our quarterbacks about making good decisions, and that's the most important thing they do every day."

"Turnover margin in our league is one of the biggest predictors of wins and losses, and you combine that with penalties ... If you do those two things well, and that's what we preach every single day, you lend yourself to playing good, clean football, which gives yourself a chance every single week to win."

You can watch the Alouettes battle the Redblacks LIVE on TSN3/5, and the TSN App, with coverage starting Thursday at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT.