Argos eager to take advantage

Quarterback Jarious Jackson will look to vault the Argos past the first-place Montreal Alouettes at...

Quarterback Jarious Jackson will look to vault the Argos past the first-place Montreal Alouettes at the Rogers Centre on Sunday. (Dave Thomas/QMI Agency)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:51 PM ET

Eventually and inevitably, the East will be won, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the moment, no matter how ill equipped any of the alleged contenders appear when matched up against their Western counterpart.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way, way back when the off-season of makeovers and do-overs were being initiated, back in the days that now seem like an eternity when all four Eastern Division teams had four bona fide quarterbacks, including Grey Cup champions.

But as the playoffs now loom, the East has been reduced to a crawl where no team has yet to establish any semblance of consistency.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are by far the biggest busts in three-down football, a team so disjointed that no one can properly dissect all that has gone awry in the Hammer.

Bad karma followed the Blue Bombers into the early season when a delay in construction of a new playpen basically set the tone for a year that has gone from bad to the depths of humiliation, a plight that cost good guy Paul LaPolice his job.

And then there’s the head-scratching tale of Montreal and Toronto, two teams that play Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre, one likely to emerge atop the division, almost by default based on how each has played of late.

It’s gotten to the point of redundancy and sheer lunacy that players on both teams are uttering words that can easily apply to either team.

“This is a crucial game,’’ Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo said. “Guys realize that and our challenge is to get back to being consistent in all three phases.

“If we take care of the ball, we’ll have a great chance to win.”

Montreal failed to take care of the ball last week and was upset by the visiting Blue Bombers, who visit Toronto next week.

The Argos were dreadful from the opening kickoff against Saskatchewan and insist they’ve put behind that setback.

“I’d say guys are very aware of the task at hand,’’ Argos backup free safety and special teams ace Matt Black said. “They understand the importance of it. We’re ready, we feel we’ve earned this opportunity, even though things have not gone our way.

“We’re working hard to get to where we want to go and this is a pivotal point to our year.”

With Ricky Ray getting closer to returning, the Argos must somehow find a way to summon more when it’s becoming increasingly obvious the team’s offence is incapable of winning a game, at least as currently constituted.

Ray will miss what is essentially his fourth game in a row, hurt in the first quarter against Montreal last month when the Argos were facing one of those statement games, only to fall woefully short in a one-sided loss.

While the Argos did escape with a win in the Peg, the Bombers were brutal, self-imploding in all three phases, unable to get to Jarious Jackson, who basically managed a game, which is really all he can do.

If the Argos need Jackson to win them a game on Sunday, they’ll be in for a rather long day.

“There are always bumps in the road,’’ said Black, whose namesake, fellow Canuck Tristan Black, will be unavailable against the Als due to an injury. “It’s how you respond.

“There’s nothing you can do about last week. All we can do is impact this week. We still have an opportunity to play for first place and we have to take advantage of that because you don’t get too many more opportunities this late in the year.”

With a win, the 7-7 Argos will have the tiebreaker over the Als, who limp into Sunday’s showdown having lost two in a row.

A loss, though, and the Argos will slip further into the ranks of the mediocre, still better than Hamilton and Winnipeg, as if that should mean anything, but nowhere near elite status.

“Just coming off last, we have to take care of what’s first and that’s us,’’ Argos starting middle linebacker Robert McCune said. “We’ve been tuned in this week knowing Montreal is coming off a couple of losses. We’re expecting them to play their best.

“In games like this, it’s going to come down to the team that plays with less penalties and mistakes. We’re going to have to be on our A game because they’re a good football team, offensively, defensively and on special teams.”

The Argos need to bounce back, but so do the Als.

Both teams need to be consistent in a year where inconsistency has prevailed.

And yet, one team will win the East and be one win away from playing for a Grey Cup.

Entering Sunday, neither the Argos nor the Als are worthy of winning a title.

“I’m concerned when a defence is inconsistent,’’ Als head coach Marc Trestman said. “And we’ve been inconsistent the last couple of weeks.

“It’s been a year of inconsistency for our team. But who hasn’t been inconsistent?”

 


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