Life after Labour Day begins in the Canadian Football League and it appears to be a two-horse race in the East Division. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have a healthy lead atop the East Standings, with the Montreal Alouettes the only other team with a winning record. But how wide is the gap between the two teams?
Farhan Lalji: I don’t think the gap right now is very big at all. You look at these two teams and they split a pair of games earlier this season and it was after their win over the Tiger-Cats in July when the Alouettes' season really took off. They backed that up with wins against the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos.
And consider the Ticats’ schedule has been much softer to this point in the season. They have gone 5-0 against the three worst teams in the league – the BC Lions, Toronto Argonauts, and Ottawa Redblacks, teams with a combined 5-25 record – and Montreal has played those teams just three times; they’ll play the Lions for the first time this week. Now, do I think the Alouettes are going to make up an eight-point gap even with two games in hand? No I don’t. But if you get to an East Final and both teams advance, I think it’s a coin flip.
|Week 2||at Argos||W||64-14|
|Week 9||vs. Lions||W||35-34|
|Week 10||at Redblacks||W||21-7|
|Week 11||at Lions||W||13-10|
|Week 12||vs. Argos||W||38-27|
|Combined record of opponents: 5-25|
Dave Naylor: Well, one of the biggest differences between these two teams could be on defence where the Ticats are allowing almost a touchdown less per game compared to Montreal.
But it’s interesting to see how these teams are being led by two guys who began this season as backup quarterbacks: Vernon Adams with the Als, Dane Evans with the Ticats. The Ticats are 4-1 since Evans took over for the injured Jeremiah Masoli but really he didn’t have a breakout game until Labour Day against the Toronto Argonauts.
Lalji: I think the Alouettes are really being carried by Vernon Adams, who has been so good during this stretch. And if you ask me right now, he could be a Most Outstanding Player candidate with a real strong finish. He certainly is the front-runner to get the nod in the East at this point. He’s been responsible for 17 touchdowns through the air or on the ground and 2,100 yards rushing and passing. And really he’s changed the narrative around that Montreal franchise, he’s the reason to go watch right now with how exciting he’s been.
Naylor: And Adams has really shown an affinity for the big play, and of course he got another target recently with the signing of Chris Matthews, the former CFL Most Outstanding Rookie and former NFLer. And with BJ Cunningham hurt, he can sub in for him. When you add Quan Bray and Eugene Lewis, that’s lots of targets for Adams to try to continue that offence moving in the right direction in the second half of the season.