OTTAWA — With eight games remaining, the struggling Ottawa Redblacks know time is running short to turn the season around and make a run at the playoffs.
Coming off a bye week, the Redblacks (3-7) see Saturday afternoon’s matchup against the 1-9 Toronto Argonauts as the perfect time to right the ship.
That’s not to say they’re underestimating its opponent, as they know they are in no position to do that having won just once in their last eight games.
“Everybody knows we need a win,” said Jonathon Jennings, who will get the start at quarterback for the Redblacks. “We have three wins and that’s not going to be enough to get in the playoffs. There’s a real sense of urgency right now. It’s not like if we lose this game we’re out, but we need to win now and try to finish this season as strong as we can to give ourselves the best chance.”
While many have written the Argos off, there’s been some improvements in their game that just don’t show in the standings. The Toronto net offence has been one of the best in the league since August at 408.9 yards per game, with only Edmonton posting better numbers at 420 yards per game.
Toronto QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson is second in the league in passing with 2,593 yards and is averaging 309 yards through eight starts.
“It’s super frustrating because we know how good we are, the talent we have,” Bethel-Thompson said. “When we play good, efficient football there’s not a defence out here that has a chance.”
Bethel-Thompson says the team remains confident, but understands it’s what happens on the field that counts right now.
“We know that if we want to get back to .500 we’ve got to win them all, but you can’t win them all until you win the first one,” he said. “This is our championship, it’s our most important game. I think if we adopt that mindset where we really take it one day at a time, one game at a time we can really be a dangerous team.”
Jennings will be getting his third start of the season after the Redblacks decided it was time for a change following an ugly outing by Dominique Davis in a 40-18 loss to Saskatchewan two weeks ago.
The 27-year-old is excited for the opportunity and is hopeful he can create a spark for a team that has struggled to find any consistency or momentum this season. A strong start would likely go a long way in helping this team’s confidence.
“It’s always nice to get a rhythm early in the game, but each game is so different,” said Jennings. You never know what you’re going to get or how the game’s going to play out or if special teams will have an early impact. We’re just looking to execute and make some plays throughout the game.”
Having Jennings under centre doesn’t change a lot for the Redblacks, but receiver Brad Sinopoli believes Ottawa’s mindset has to change.
“For the rest of the season these are all must-wins,” Sinopoli said. “This is kind of the time, regardless of our record, where you want to be trending upwards and given the spot we’re in we know that we need to win and it needs to start tomorrow.”
The Redblacks will have a couple new starters in the lineup as SB Jerminic Smith and middle LB Jeff Knox Jr. will get their first start.
Redblacks coach Rick Campbell is excited about both feeling Smith brings a lot of speed and that Knox is someone who can slide in and understand the system. DE Darius Jackson will also be playing his first CFL game.
Earlier in the week Campbell had hoped RB John Crockett might play, but he’s been added to the six-game injury list.
TORONTO ARGONAUTS (1-9) AT OTTAWA REDBLACKS (3-7)
Saturday, TD Place Stadium
MAKE IT STOP: The Argos 1-9 start is their poorest since 1993 they haven’t had a 1-10 start since 1981 when they went 0-11.
GIVE ME THE BALL: Toronto SB S. J. Green with 9,709 yards needs just 54 yards to move into the Top 20 all-time passing Rocky DiPietro at 9,762 yards.
GET ON THE BOARD: Saturday’s game will feature the league’s two lowest scoring teams as Ottawa averages 19.3, while Toronto sits dead last at 17.8