After grinding out key wins over division rivals in recent weeks, the challenge for the Calgary Stampeders is to not let their guard down.
A bye week is on their horizon, but the struggling Montreal Alouettes (3-10) are in town Friday before the Stampeders take their break.
And Calgary (11-1-1) has a short week of prep after a physically punishing 15-9 road win Sunday over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
With a receiving corps thinned by injuries, Calgary has leaned heavily on defence, running backs Jerome Messam and Roy Finch and the boot of kicker Rene Paredes lately.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is moving the offence downfield, but some inexperience at receiver has meant settling for a field goal instead of a touchdown at times.
Five wins over West Division opponents since mid-August, however, secured a playoff berth for Calgary before the end of September.
The Stampeders averaged 24.8 points per game and averaged just 15.8 points against in those five divisional victories.
“They have been tough and we have been playing a lot of the Western teams,” head coach Dave Dickenson said Tuesday. “We knew how important those games are and now we’re going up against an East team.”
“That’s obviously a concern as far as if they are looking to the bye week. That’s a problem.”
So Calgary’s rallying cry heading into Friday is Montreal may be last in the East Division, but the Als are the only team to have beaten the Stampeders so far this season.
Calgary fell 30-23 to the host Alouettes in Week 4.
“You’ve got one blemish on your record. Who put it on there?” Calgary defensive co-ordinator DeVone Claybrooks said.
“Have you ever seen a wounded dog in a corner? They will bite. That’s what we equate Montreal to. We don’t want them to bite us.”
The Als have undergone a coaching change since beating the Stamps.
Head coach Jacques Chapdelaine and defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe were sacked earlier in September with general manager Kavis Reed taking over as coach.
Those personnel changes make this week seem even more compressed for Dickenson and his coaching staff.
“A five-day week with a different opponent and an opponent we haven’t seen since Week 4 and now has new coaches,” Dickenson said. “We’re not sure exactly what they’re doing.
“There are a lot of challenges for our guys this week. That’s why mentally, they have to be focused.”
Montreal starting quarterback Darian Durant is reportedly day to day with a lower-body injury.
There are also reports former long-time Stampeder slotback Nik Lewis (lower body) will not play what would have been his last game at McMahon Stadium.
On the injury front for Calgary, DaVaris Daniels appears to be the closest of the three injured starting receivers to a return.
The coach wasn’t planning to rest any starters Friday if he can help it.
“If you’re healthy, I want to play you,” Dickenson said. “I just feel like you’re paid to play, you’re healthy and you’re feeling good, you’re playing.”