MONTREAL -- Two wounded CFL heavyweights have a chance to put all their problems on the back-burner tonight.
The Argos (2-2) and the Montreal Alouettes (2-2), the longtime powerhouses in the CFL East, square off for first place in the division tonight at Molson Stadium, despite their mediocre starts to the 2005 season.
"I think we're real fortunate to be playing for first place," Argos receiver Tony Miles said. "We've lost two early and they've lost two early and in our division, a lot of people have lost. We're in position where we can control our own destiny throughout the whole season at the fifth game of the year. It's not too often you can do that."
The defending Grey Cup champion Argos have been forced to travel to Montreal for the past three Eastern finals and finally broke through with a win at Olympic Stadium last year en route to the Grey Cup. With the Alouettes providing the opposition in two of the next three games -- Montreal is at the Rogers Centre Aug. 12 -- now is the time to make a move for home-field advantage in the playoffs. The final Als-Argos game this season is Oct. 22 at Olympic Stadium.
"Usually, they get the upper hand and they're the front-runner," Miles said. "We're always chasing them. We want to come in here to their place and beat them and have them chase us for a change and see how they respond to being the chaser instead of the chasey."
Easier said than done. The Argos, missing top receiver Arland Bruce III (adductor), have won just one of their past nine games at intimate Molson Stadium, where the Als were 7-1 last year. With the memories of the Argos' 26-18 Eastern final win still reasonably fresh and with the Als coming off a stunning 51-46 loss against the previously winless Winnipeg Blue Bombers, expect the home side to be a fired-up bunch.
"The reality is they are probably a more dangerous team," Argos coach Pinball Clemons said. "We haven't seen this team play with the same edge or desperation ... The fact this team is 2-2 has nothing to do with how good a football team it is or anything like that."
The Argos have questions of their own to answer. Many would consider them to be lucky to be 2-2 and they were awful in the first half of their previous game -- a 30-22 loss against the B.C. Lions July 15.
"We've been very inconsistent," Argos defensive back Kenny Wheaton said. "This is a weird time to play them because they have to get over that hump and we have to get over that hump for first place."
While both teams have proven vulnerable, the Als and the Argos remain the class of the East. No one would be surprised if they play a fourth game this season -- the East final on Nov. 20.
"Hopefully Toronto can get there," Alouettes coach Don Matthews said, "because we plan to."