It has been a week of mental preparation for defensive back Robertson Daniel and the Toronto Argonauts.
Toronto (9-1) hosts the Montreal Alouettes (6-5) to open an important home-and-home series for the East Division rivals (1 p.m., TSN). But it’s a quick turnaround for the Argonauts, who earned a 41-28 road victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Monday afternoon.
“Really, it means being a professional,” Daniel said. “I mean, there are challenges with everything. There are challenges when you have a long week. It’s just being a professional and now taking care of the recovery and rest parts.”
Toronto had three practices this week but the first (Wednesday) and last (Friday) were walk-throughs. Much of the players’ preparation this week involved taking mental reps and studying film.
“It’s a big mental week because you only have one day of practice,” Daniel said. “But it’s understanding that Saturday, game day, you’ve got to bring everything you have in terms of physicality because of the week we just had.
“But I say it’s a luxury week because who doesn’t want to turn around and play football after a short period of time?”
Both teams have plenty riding on these next two games.
Toronto, which has won three straight, can clinch a playoff berth as well as the season series versus Montreal with a win Saturday. That would also improve the Argos’ record to 10-1 and tie them with the ’96 squad for best all-time start in club history.
“Everything is on the line, this is a playoff game,” Daniel said. “This is Week 1 of the playoffs for us.”
A sweep would move Montreal, which comes in having lost two straight, to within a game of Toronto for the East Division lead. The Alouettes would also clinch the season series, and thus the tiebreaker should the two teams end the year with the same points total.
Toronto won the first meeting 35-27 in Montreal on July 14. Argos starter Chad Kelly completed 21-of-25 passes for 351 yards and three TDs with an interception in the contest while A.J. Ouellette ran for 95 yards on 14 carries.
Montreal’s Cody Fajardo was 26-of-36 passing for 282 yards with three TDs and two interceptions. He was also sacked four times, which has been a problem this season for the Als, who are tied with Ottawa for most sacks allowed (42).
And that could certainly work in Toronto’s favour considering its defence leads the CFL in sacks (37).
Montreal’s most potent offensive weapon is Austin Mack, the CFL’s top receiver. Mack has 60 catches for 971 yards (16.2-yard average) and four TDs.
Mack and veteran running back William Stanback were key performers for Montreal in its 34-25 home loss Saturday to the B.C. Lions. Mack registered seven catches for 143 yards — both game highs — and a touchdown while Stanback ran for 103 yards and a TD on just eight carries.
Fajardo completed 22 of 35 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown but also threw two interceptions while Montreal allowed five sacks. Fajardo added 36 rushing yards on six carries.
“I like Montreal’s offence, I have a lot of respect for their offence,” Daniel said. “They do a good job running the ball and they can throw the ball.
“They have downfield threats, I like their wide receiving crew.”
Daniel was especially complimentary of Mack.
“God bless him and his season and being able to stay healthy,” he said. “I don’t know (Mack) but I praise any player that’s having a good season and is able to stay healthy.
“I’m looking forward to lining up against him but I’ll be honest, I don’t lose sleep over anybody. I’ll give you your respect but I’m coming to play.”
Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said his team will certainly be in for a tough game with the Alouettes.
“That’s a very good football team.” he said. “Mack is a great player all around, there’s no weakness in his game.
“They like to run the ball and they’re good at it … they’re going to try to establish it early and see if they can get it going. If they can it will give them more opportunities to expand their scheme.”
Dinwiddie said he and his coaches are fully aware of what’s on the line Saturday regarding both a potential playoff spot and securing a piece of franchise history. However, neither subject was broached with the players.
“I do think about it (tying best start in Argos history) but you can’t get caught up in it,” he said. “We just stick to our goals of getting into the playoffs, host one playoff game and get to the Grey Cup and try to win it there.
“We don’t get too caught up as far as team or club records. I think if you get caught up in that, you can get disappointed.”