Alouettes face uphill battle for playoff berth

Jim Popp believes it’s going to take a nine-win season in the East Division to qualify for the playoffs, meaning the Alouettes — much like Toronto and Hamilton — must win three of their remaining four games.

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“But we have some stuff stacked against us,” the Als’ general manager said Wednesday, prior to the team photo being taken at Olympic Stadium. “We have to play on the road. That’s our own fault. We had early home games and didn’t take care of our own business.

“It’s not that we can’t do it,” Popp quickly added.

The Als have never failed to reach the playoffs since returning to the Canadian Football League in 1996 but, as Popp admitted, the odds appear somewhat daunting, given their remaining schedule.

The Als meet the Argonauts Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre (2 p.m., TSN1, RDS, TSN Radio 690), both teams riding three-game winning streaks. The night before, the Tiger-Cats entertain the expansion Ottawa Redblacks. The Ticats haven’t lost at home since moving into their new stadium in September.

Toronto, Montreal and Hamilton all have identical 6-8 records. The Argos already have defeated the Als once, while Montreal defeated the Ticats in its only meeting.

The Als have road games remaining at Ottawa and Hamilton, entertaining the Argos in between. The Ticats must travel to Toronto and Ottawa. Three of the Argos’ remaining games are at home, including the season finale against the Redblacks.

While Montreal’s 5-3 at Molson Stadium good but not great — the Als have won only once on the road, at Ottawa.

“I think our team’s very capable,” Popp said. “We beat Calgary, that’s only lost twice. Saskatchewan has one of the better records in the league. We beat B.C. I think we’re capable of beating anybody.

“I think we have every chance to win every game we go into. I really do.”

The Als, of course, dug themselves into a whole during the first half of the season, losing six consecutive games and seven of eight overall. Since then, Montreal has won five of six, all with Jonathan Crompton as the team’s starting quarterback.

Crompton has passed for 1,512 yards along with seven touchdowns in seven games. He has been intercepted seven times, but hasn’t had a ball pilfered in three of his last four games. He has yet to surpass 300 yards in a game. Indeed his season-high of 266 yards came in three quarters of work, coming off the bench in relief of Alex Brink at Winnipeg, Aug. 22.

But Crompton has completed nearly 59 per cent of his attempts. And he has won.

“I think he has very nice pocket presence, and he runs better than people think he can,” Popp said. “He’s a strong man and is very well-liked. If you’re the quarterback and you’re winning, you’re well-liked.

“The real issue is winning. And he’s a 5-1 guy right now. That’s all that matters. The team’s playing with confidence and thinks they can win.”

A loss at Toronto this weekend would potentially have devastating results. In effect, it would put the Als two games behind the Argos, given the tiebreaker. It might also mean the Als’ playoff hopes would come down to the final game in Hamilton.



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