The standings suggest the Argos should have the upper hand on Saturday when they visit the B.C. Lions. A win would land Toronto in first place in the East. The Lions will finish last in the West, regardless of the result.
But the Argos know better than to read too much into that.
“You look at their last game (a 36-27 win over Winnipeg), they had 78 plays on offence compared to 47 for Winnipeg,” Argos coach Marc Trestman said. “We know its not easy going out west. We’re going to be playing at what would be 10 o’clock on a Saturday evening back east. We have to get ready for that, and we’re playing a team that is not defined by their position in the standings.”
The 7-10 Lions, like the 8-9 Argos, have been hurt by inconsistency and penalties, despite all-star level talent at several positions. Toronto has managed to find ways to win in spite of its inconsistencies; the Argos have four wins in the last six games, many of them with wild finishes and crazy lead changes. But they are playing in the weaker division. The Argos are just 2-5 against West opponents, the Lions are 4-3 against the East.
The Argos, though, are playing for a home date in the playoffs. They will host the East final Nov. 19 if they can beat the Lions. And Trestman was making sure during his team’s bye week that no one underestimated the opportunity — or the Lions.
B.C. quarterback Jonathan Jennings is coming off his best game of the season. He completed 30 of 40 passes for 408 yards and four touchdowns against Winnipeg, all season highs. All-purpose back Chris Rainey had 304 combined yards (via rushing, receiving and returns), plus a pair of touchdowns. And receiver Bryan Burnham added 152 receiving yards to hit 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season.
Argos offensive lineman Sean McEwen also noted the B.C. defence shut down an impressive Wininipeg offence.
“They’re playing championship level on defence,” McEwen said, in part referring to linebacker Soloman Elimimian, who is the Lions’ nominee for the league’s outstanding player award. “You can see it on the game films. They went into Winnipeg and shut a good offence down. We all have a big challenge ahead of us.”
Argos linebacker Bear Woods played with the five-foot-eight Rainey in college and is aware of the damage he can do.
“He’s a game-changer, he’s been that at every level he’s played at,” Woods said. “He’s fun to watch and he’s always a handful. He can do it all. He’s not your standard running back. He’s not going to hit the hole like your typical running back would. He’s very slippery, almost snake-like when he goes through the middle. And if he gets by you, he’s by you, no way you are going to catch up to him.”
The Argos must come up with one of their best games to get another bye week. “It’s going to be a heckuva football game,” Trestman said. “It will be a playoff atmosphere for us, and for them too because it’s the game they’ll leave this season with.”