In the beginning this was supposed to be the third year in a best-of-three-seasons series. It was going to be great stuff. Two teams who had met in two straight Grey Cup games with one win each on a season-long collision course to another Grey Cup game.
Then someone threw the switch and one team went off on a different set of tracks.
If it's still a tale of two cities, it's with a twist.
The Montreal Alouettes are here today with a chance to become an all-time team - to have the best record of any Montreal team in CFL history.
And the Eskimos ... well, this column isn't about the Eskimos. Suffice it to say that facing a situation where they could become the first Edmonton team in 33 years to miss the playoffs is all-time team stuff on the other end of the scale. Last year, for the first time in history, the Eskimos won all four games in the East. This year, for the first time in history, they lost all four. The Eskimos are 1-5 against the top three teams in the league, they can't win on the road (2-6) and can't win close games.
The Als, on the other hand, are 12-2. They started with a six-game winning streak, lost one, won six more and lost in Taylor Field last week. Two more wins and they'll have won more regular-season games than any Montreal CFL entry ever.
They very much go into this one very much looking at being an all-time team.
"Early in the season I thought we had a chance to be 18-0,'' said veteran defensive tackle Ed Philion.
"This is the best team, the most competitive team, in the six years I've been here.
"We want to finish the season as one of the best teams ever, go on to win the championship and get free trips back to Montreal every few years like that 1977 Alouette team and the 1954 Eskimo team having the reunion here this week. Those are the kinds of teams fans and the media remember.''
True. But if Philion and pals talk to those guys who won three straight Grey Cups from '54 to '56 and ask them which was their best team, they'd tell them it was the 1957 team that didn't get there. And the best all-time Eskimo regular-season team was Joe Faragelli's 16-2 squad from 1989, which lost the Western Final.
Still, Montreal is putting up some numbers.
"Maybe it's still too early to tell, but the potential is very good,'' says Ben Cahoon, the receiver who is coming back after being out of the lineup for two games - the only time an injury has kept him out of a game in his entire career going back to high school.
"When we're prepared and focused we're a tough team to beat. This game gives us a chance to see how we'll handle adversity and respond after a loss.
"We expect Edmonton to play desperate football. Our challenge will be to match their intensity and come at them with the same kind of enthusiasm and emotion.''
Six-year Alouette Barron Miles says this is the time of year when Montreal has often seen their seasons slide.
"This team is very good, but we can be our own worst enemies as you could see last week.''
Indeed, says coach Don Matthews.
"Saskatchewan kicked our butts so bad I wasn't able to sit down until yesterday. The players, along with myself, were embarrassed by that performance.''
That said, Matthews thinks he's ended up with a special group here.
"I believe this is a better team than we had last year. And last year I thought we had a better team than we had the year before.
"Our quarterback gets better every year,'' he says of Anthony Calvillo.
Matthews says this team is as good as the one he had in Baltimore, but stops short of the one he coached to back-to-back Grey Cup wins in Toronto.
"The one decisive factor of all those teams is the Doug Flutie mystique. He brought the level of play of all his teammates to another level.''
But the beat has to go on or this group will go down as just another Alouette team with early speed that got caught at the finish line. This game might tell a tale when it comes to that.
Philion says this game could be doubly delicious for the Als.
"I think the two best franchises in the league from the top on down are Montreal and Edmonton but this year, for whatever reasons, we've been on different paths to get wherever it is we're going. We exorcised our demons from the last Grey Cup game when we beat the Eskimos in the first game of the season. For us this is not a playoff game but for them, although Winnipeg losing Friday took a little pressure off them, it's a lot like a playoff game. If we can win this one and put them behind the eight-ball to get into the playoffs, then it'll be a double deal for us.''