The Argonauts should win Friday night and are expected to beat the Ottawa RedBlacks, but it’s on Saturday afternoon in Hamilton when Toronto’s post-season fate will be determined.
Winning ugly against Ottawa, posting a one-sided victory, running the football or heaving the pigskin downfield, it’s of no consequence if the Ticats topple the visiting Als.
All that’s known heading into the weekend is that Montreal will play host to a playoff game, either the East semi or divisional final.
With rain in the forecast in The Hammer, the ground game becomes important and controlling the line of scrimmage is paramount, areas that favour the Als, who have won six in a row.
The Ticats, though, are unbeaten at Tim Hortons Field and are well-rested having last played in Ottawa on Friday when the RedBlacks did more to beat themselves than anything Hamilton managed to produce on offence.
No longer do the Argos control their destiny, but they can control how they come out and perform on Friday.
If the Argos don’t look past the RedBlacks, and there has been nothing to suggest they will, they’ll win.
How large the margin will depend on how well Ottawa’s offence functions, a limited attack with very little playmakers at the skilled position.
It would be foolish to single out Trevor Harris, Toronto’s third-year quarterback who will make the start as Ricky Ray recovers from a concussion.
Ray is expected to be back for the post-season, assuming there is a playoff game.
Whether it was Ray or Harris or third-stringer Mitchell Gale lining up under centre, the Argos are better than Ottawa.
Provided they bring the same kind of urgency the Argos brought when they played Hamilton two weeks ago, they’ll win.
It’s another story if they shoot themselves in the foot by taking penalties or turning over the ball.
Harris doesn’t have to win the game by himself and it’s not his nature to attempt throws when there’s no throw available.
“Trevor had a great practice yesterday,’’ said head coach Scott Milanovich on Thursday. “I’m excited for him. He’s waited three long years to get this opportunity. He’s what you want in a quarterback as far as his demeanour, work ethic, professionalism. He’s always prepared and I have no question he’ll be mentally prepared to play.
“Skill-set wise, maybe similar to Rick (Ray). His arm strength is probably a little bit stronger than Rick’s. He’s got some mobility. He can get out of the pocket a little bit and move the sticks with his leg. He’s kind of an accurate, rhythm passer and it’s what he needs to be (Friday).
“Very similar to when Zach (Collaros) played a year ago. I don’t want him (Harris) to be a hero in the pocket. I want him to go through his progressions and if it’s time for him to make a play, he needs to make that outside the pocket.”
When Collaros made his debut in a home game versus the B.C. Lions in 2013, the Argos established a run game and played well on defence and on special teams, taking pressure off Collaros.
Toronto executes the same game plan and it wins, simply put, against an Ottawa team that does not know how to win.
The RedBlacks did beat the Argos 18-17 back in July in the new franchise’s home opener, but Ottawa did not score a touchdown, the Argos leaving points out on the field. Ottawa made one downfield throw late to set up its game-winning field goal. When the Argos had a chance on the ensuing possession, they lacked execution.
DOUBLE BLUE TURN TO GREEN FOR CORNER HELP
At least when it comes to three-down football, Isaiah Green is as green as his surname.
No games under his belt, no history with the CFL, no excuses, Green will get his first taste Friday night against the visiting RedBlacks when he makes his debut for the Argonauts at starting cornerback.
When incumbent Vincent Agnew injured his Achilles in last Sunday’s 17-14 loss in Montreal, a setback that will require surgery, the Argos needed to address yet another area.
The Scullers turned to Green on a short week, impressed with his athleticism and ball skills.
“The CFL is completely different than the NFL, but I’m always looking for a new challenge,’’ said Green.
“I feel good, I’m excited and I’m looking forward to a new adventure.”
After playing college football at Fresno State, Green was signed by the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2012.
He would later audition in the NFL for the Colts and Steelers before the call came a few weeks ago from the Argos, Green’s football path taking him to a new environment.
At Fresno State, Green’s teammates were Tristan Okpalaugo and Logan Harrell, rookie defensive linemen for the Argos.
Prior to the Argos reaching out to Green, he was training back in his hometown of Fresno, Calif., about to get a part-time job.
“Anything to bring in some money,’’ he recounted. “I was hoping, wishing, praying something would come along. I believed something would come along. I didn’t expect it to be the CFL, but when Toronto called I wanted to jump on the opportunity as soon as possible.”
Depending on what plays out Friday night and what happens Saturday afternoon in Hamilton, where the Ticats play host to the Als in a battle for first place, this might be Green’s one and only shot at making an impression.
But in pro football, all a player covets is an opportunity.
GIMMICKS, TRICKS, GADGETS
The Ottawa RedBlacks have produced a league-low two wins this season, the team competitive at times, but unable to get over the hump when a game is on the line.
No team runs as many trick plays on special teams than Ottawa, one of the most telling signs in football that basically underscores a deficiency on offence. Anyone who needs a reminder may drift back to the Cleo Lemon years in Toronto, a time when the gadget play on special teams became almost as common as any block or tackle.
Ottawa closes out its season Friday night, its special teams play providing the Argos with plenty to ponder and prepare.
“We’ve prepared for everything we’ve seen all year,’’ said Argos special-team co-ordinator Jim Daley. “Punts, field goals, returns, they use trick plays and fakes. We need to be at the top of our game for a lot of reasons.
“Firstly, they have very good special teams. Secondly, they do a lot of gimmicks and tricks. We have to be really locked in mentally.”
Rugby-style punts, Aussie Rules Football punts involving the pigskin in a vertical position, the RedBlacks have shown flashes of pinning foes deep on their side of midfield.
At the same time, Ottawa’s special teams have yielded two kickoff returns for touchdowns, two punt returns for scores and two missed field goals were returned to the house.
Brandon Banks exploited the unit last week in sparking the visiting Ticats to their win.
It has been the norm in recent years for the Argos to introduce their special teams at the home finale, a tradition that will continue Friday night, as opposed to introducing either the starting offence or defence prior to kickoff.
On Friday, Cory Greenwood will play his first home game as an Argo, the Concordia product and ex-NFLer making his CFL debut last Sunday in Montreal.
“He was noticeable from the first minute of the first practice as being a real pro,’’ praised Daley. “Great skill. As importantly, his demeanour in terms of study, learn and watch, he’s the total professional. He’s going to be a tremendous player for this franchise.”