Dogfight for top spot in East

I was 3-1 last week and the CFL schedule is a little light this week as the CFL West Division teams go on summer vacation.

I was 3-1 last week and the CFL schedule is a little light this week as the CFL West Division teams go on summer vacation.

It seems a little odd to take a vacation in the middle of a season, but few team sports lay as much hurt on its players like football. Check that — no team sport beats up its own like football. It is the ultimate contact sport because even kickers get whacked, although not enough to be called real players. Thus a week away from the brutality is a good thing for players and even the odd kicker.

So that leaves us with two critical East Division match-ups. Thursday night features a game between Montreal and Winnipeg in the former New France region of Canada. Montreal will not be gracious hosts this week as they face the Bombers in the cozy and newly renovated Percival Molson Stadium.

Saturday night’s loss to the Argonauts will be a very fresh memory on Thursday for the 5-2 Alouettes. Meanwhile, 2-5 Winnipeg has dive-bombed into the basement after their third consecutive loss. Neither team has a warm and fuzzy attitude as they head into the game.

Montreal loses very rarely at home, so this game has all of the ingredients for an Alouette massacre. The Bombers have lost three in a row while the Alouettes have lost only two games all season. But Winnipeg has played in some close games. So close that they have actually scored three more points than they have given up in seven games. The 5-2 Toronto Argonauts have a 20-point deficit in this department. So I guess that statistics are indeed for losers.

Despite that, all of this rambling leads me to my point: Bombers win this game. Montreal is a very beatable football team this year.

Winnipeg is better than their record indicates, and the Alouettes’ secondary is vulnerable to the big play pass. I also believe that Anthony Calvillo will face big pressure from the Bomber front seven, while the recent disappearance of the Montreal run game makes the Als one-dimensional on offence.

The other game is filled with optimistic possibilities for two CFL teams from southern Ontario. Toronto and Hamilton have reasons to believe in their football teams as we get closer to the halfway point in the season.

The 3-4 Hamilton Tiger-Cats are just happy to play somebody who isn’t Winnipeg, while 5-2 Toronto has a look from the standings penthouse for a change. Both teams have a legitimate shot at first place in the East, so the natural rivalry between the Argos and Ti-Cats has added interest for born-again fans of both squads.

It is clear that Argo head man Jim Barker has been underrated as a coach. Last season, an Argo game was considered cruel and unusual punishment under the Geneva Convention rules.

This year, the team has brought a winning team back to a city of perennial losers where only the Leafs have complete immunity from fan contempt.

So where do the Argonauts go from here? Back into the loss column against the Tiger-Cats, because the Cats have found their game behind veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn. Glenn has been aided by a rediscovered run game and the insanely brilliant play of receiver Arland Bruce. The bubble bursts for Toronto in this one.

Jim Sutherland is a local freelance writer whose CFL column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at mystarcollectorcar.com

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