Bears Woods hates the Toronto Argonauts’ record but loves the position they’re in.
Toronto (5-7) hosts Montreal (3-9) on Saturday night with a chance to win the season series and create more distance between the two in the East Division standings. Next week, the Argos face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with an opportunity to do the same to their long-time rivals.
Winning those games would put the Argos in good shape to host their first-ever playoff game at BMO Field and first in Toronto since 2013. So in Woods’ mind, that makes Saturday night’s encounter as meaningful as a playoff game.
“I think any team would want to be in the position we’re in as far as you’re in the driver’s seat,” he said. “Everyone wants the first-round bye, everyone wants first place and this game is very important.
“(Montreal) is a couple of games behind us so it really is playoff football in my mind.”
Trouble is, Toronto hasn’t won consecutive games this season. The Argos are coming off a 34-26 home victory Saturday against Edmonton, their first over a West Division team.
“We obviously haven’t been consistent enough in all three phases,” said starter Ricky Ray. “Offensively we’ve executed real well in some games and then in others we just haven’t made the plays at the right time.
“When we get into tough games or when things aren’t going well or when things are going well, we just have to be focused out there and make plays that come our way.”
Toronto is 4-2 at home and 4-2 within the East Division. Montreal is 0-5 on the road and 1-4 against conference rivals.
Montreal beat Toronto 21-9 on Aug. 11 at Molson Stadium. With Ray injured, Jeff Mathews and Cody Fajardo were a combined 18-of-28 passing for 142 yards.
Former Alouette Brandon Whitaker ran for 96 yards on 13 carries but receiver S.J. Green, playing in Montreal for the first time since being dealt to Toronto last off-season, had just four catches for 32 yards.
Toronto earned a 38-6 home win over Montreal on Aug. 19. Ray returned to throw for 377 yards and four TDs while Green registered nine catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
Whitaker had 89 yards rushing on 11 carries and two catches for 30 yards.
However, it was James Wilder Jr. who led Toronto past Edmonton, rushing for 190 yards – the most in the CFL this season – and a TD. Martese Jackson also returned a missed field goal 125 yards for a touchdown, the Argos first since August 2013 against Montreal.
Montreal has lost five straight, including a 29-11 decision Sunday to Ottawa. That was the Alouettes’ first game under interim head coach and GM Kavis Reed, who last week fired head coach Jacques Chapdelaine and defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe.
Starter Darian Durant was 0-for-6 passing before being replaced by Drew Willy in the second quarter. Willy, a former Argo, was 12-of-17 passing for 83 yards.
Ottawa’s William Powell ran for 144 yards while Diontae Spencer returned a missed field goal 113 yards for a touchdown. The Redblacks accumulated 421 offensive yards, compared to 166 for Montreal.
“I expect us to come out fighting,” Durant said. “We have to make up our minds now that this is the game we need and we’d better come out fighting.
“I need to settle down and make the throws that are there. Put the ball in a catchable position.”
Running back Tyrell Sutton said Montreal can do plenty to help Durant.
“I think he’s trying to be the saviour of the team with his throws and he’s overworking himself,” Sutton said. “So we need to put him into position where he can work less.
“We understand the ramifications. We have a lot of former players and staff members now in Toronto, but I think that’s over with now . . . we control our destiny and we need to win this game.”
Green spent 10 seasons in Montreal, four times surpassing the 1,000-yard receiving plateau. The 32-year-old Florida native missed most of last season with a knee injury but has regained his former in Toronto, standing second in CFL receiving with 71 catches for 1,010 yards and six TDs.
“I’m in a better place now, I’m happy and the Alouettes are no longer a priority of mine,” Green said. “My main focus is right here in Toronto and as long as we handle our business, that’s what’s going to put a smile on my face.”