It's the early going of another CFL season, and the Alouettes look ready to make a run for another East Division title.
No matter how you look at it, the Renegades are going to be in tough when the ball is kicked off at 6 p.m. in tonight's home opener on Frank Clair Night at Frank Clair Stadium against the three-time divisional winners.
The home-team fans -- when they aren't trying to sneak a peek at some of the jiggling action in the upper south side stands during the Mardi Gras Madness party -- will be hoping for a more inspiring performance from the Renegades, who were thumped 41-16 last week in Edmonton.
But Montreal's track record at the beginning of the last three seasons shows that the Als, coached by Don Matthews, play their best early in the year.
And there's no reason to think that Montreal still isn't the team to beat in the East in 2005.
Anthony Calvillo, the veteran playing his 13th season, is back at quarterback and looked as sharp as ever during his team's 31-21 victory in the opening week over Hamilton.
Even with the departure of receiver Jeremaine Copeland to Calgary and a knee injury that will keep deep threat Kwame Cavil out of action tonight, Montreal still has many big-play guys and walk into town with a swagger that has made them one of the most despised CFL teams -- outside of Quebec -- in recent years.
"Who doesn't want to beat us? Everybody does," Montreal centre Bryan Chiu said following his team's light workout yesterday at Frank Clair Stadium.
"We know they're going to come out with a lot of intensity and we've got to match that, and we've got to win the game."
The Renegades sputtered on offence last week in Edmonton because QB Kerry Joseph spent most of his time running for his life.
The Eskimos sacked him seven times, getting through an offensive line that was hit by injuries to regulars like Mike Sutherland and Samir Chahine.
Rookie Marc Parenteau started at left tackle for injured newcomer Reggie Nelson and was beaten often before leaving late in the game.
This week, veteran Val St. Germain will start in that position, which he played when he broke into the league with Edmonton 12 years ago.
The players on the offensive line look at tonight's game as nothing short of a matter of pride, and will be embarrassed if Joseph deals with the same kind of punishment from the Als that he endured in Edmonton.
"We know within our group that we're better than that," said Renegades centre George Hudson. "You've got to take a 'water off a duck's back' approach and just play better."
Better's great, but Ottawa might need a superlative effort on the offensive line to keep the likes of all- star Anwar Stewart and Marc Megna at opposite ends of the defensive line away from the quarterback.
"We're starting a new year and we want to show the fans in Ottawa and around the league that we have made changes and we are ready to go," said Renegades middle linebacker Jason Kralt, who starts in place of the injured Keaton Cromartie. "We want to show that last week in Edmonton was not and is not going to be the norm this year."