Everybody knows it is more than difficult to win both ends of a back-to-back scenario in the CFL. The Bombers know it, their players know it, and you can be sure the Alouettes are aware of it. Yet, for a number of reasons, this regular-season d©j vu experience the Bombers find themselves in, is anything but typical.
There is nothing complicated about why the majority of consecutive-opponent games usually end up in splits. One team wins and feels good about it for the next few days, not changing too much about their game plan because it worked, and possibly reading a few too many of their own headlines.
The other team loses and is not happy about it. They go back to work with a little more focus, a little more purpose and determination, and spend more time trying to figure out what will work against their opponent. When two teams are pretty evenly matched, like the Als and Bombers appear to be, a slight difference in the preparatory week is usually all it takes to turn the tide. I took the Bombers to win last week, and even though the aforementioned logic would tell me to take them again, I will be picking the Alouettes to complete the two-game sweep for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, when teams split back-to-back scenarios, they usually win their home game and lose the road game. It takes considerably more fortitude to go on the road, into a brand-new stadium the likes of IGF, in front of a packed house, and steal away the home opener. As a rule, teams tend to be better at home than on the road, so we should see a better Montreal team, and some young Bombers that may be affected by their first taste of road-trip weariness.
From every account, it also sounds like the Alouettes will have Brandon Whitaker back in the fold. While these teams split the four games they played last year, in the two games Montreal won, Whitaker was a puzzle the Bombers couldn't figure out or slow down. The two games the Bombers won against Montreal last year, he was out for the season with a year-ending surgery.
By now you have also probably heard Buck dinged his ankle when a player fell on it during the first half of last week's opener. We all saw him limping around in the first half and when a QB can't plant, step, or explode with full force from his feet, it's going to affect the velocity and accuracy of the ball he is throwing. During the broadcast of this game, I remarked in the third quarter Buck was either the recipient of the world's best tape job at half time, or he was administered a pain-killing shot. He was that good and that different. The change in his mechanics was so profound, and the resulting offensive output so impressive for a stretch, there was no other conclusion to reach. The problem with injections, though, is that they wear off, and the injury tends to take forever to heal, because when the pain is masked, you tend to do things your body would normally warn you against doing. So that may be an ongoing concern going forward.
Yet the biggest reason I am spitting in the face of statistics and logic, and predicting a two-game sweep by Montreal, is I'm betting on the character of Anthony Calvillo. Even though he had enough moxie to pull the game out of the fire in Winnipeg, he did not play up to his, or anybody else's standards for him. And when a talent like A.C. has a subpar game and gets pummeled like a broke-down sparring partner, he usually responds with a vengeance. When star players do not play up to their own expectations, they tend to work harder than everyone else to correct it. In conjunction, if the Alouettes do not do something about their own protection schemes and drastically change things to make him more comfortable in the pocket this time around, they do not have any of the good sense so many of us assume they have.
The Bombers appear to have the talent to win this game, but if they think they can just eliminate the turnovers from last week and come out on top, without an improved effort across all three phases, they may be in for a rude awakening.
Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays and game days in the Free Press.