For the Toronto Argonauts, who are only a step out of the East Division basement after losing on Labour Day, this week’s rematch with Hamilton is a must-win, plain and simple.
Because if they lose, the visiting Tiger-Cats will control the season series and jump six points ahead in the standings — both crucial factors in the case of a West Division crossover, which looks more and more likely by the week.
That being said, Toronto opened last season with a 3-8 record (which is also where it will sit in the event of a loss) and went on the win the Grey Cup. So, there is technically still hope for Argos fans regardless of what happens at BMO Field Saturday.
But last season is not this season, and this season the Double Blue are decimated by injuries, facing better competition from Hamilton and Montreal and continuing to cope with the loss of their star quarterback in Ricky Ray.
If the Argos are to have any hope in this one, they have to find a way to contain the Hamilton offence, which punished them with 543 yards in last week’s 42-28 come-from-behind win. It also can’t stop short of the finish line. On Monday, the Tiger-Cats were trailing after three quarters before putting up 18 unanswered points in Q4.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson will also need to be better. The Toronto QB was 14-for-29 in the Classic for a completion rate just over 48 per cent, and threw for only 163 yards with one interception. If new acquisition Duron Carter makes his debut, that could help.
Roster notes for Hamilton: Jalen Saunders is done for the season after tearing his right ACL on Labour Day, and as a consequence receivers Rashad Lawrence and Bralon Addison — who was among the five players added to the team’s expanded practice roster last weekend — are both in. Addison will also help with returns, which takes some pressure off Brandon Banks, who shifts to slotback with Saunders out.
Roster notes for Toronto: After Toronto signed him, coach Marc Trestman said Carter would not play in Toronto’s home and home with the Tiger-Cats, but changed his tune after Monday’s Classic letdown. Weak-side linebacker Marcus Ball, meanwhile, is sidelined after injuring his leg on Labour Day, and Jeff Knox isn’t ready to replace him. An all-star with Saskatchewan in 2015, the six-foot-two, 225-pound LB is on the one-game injured list after signing with the Argos earlier this week. Look for Justin Tuggle to start in Ball’s spot.
Numbers to crunch on:
0: The number of times Jeremiah Masoli has lost to the Argos in regulation. The Hamilton QB has started against Toronto in four regular season games since 2016, and earned three wins and an overtime loss in that span.
8: The number of games in which Masoli has thrown for 300 or more yards this season — one game shy of the Tiger-Cats record set by Henry Burris in 2013. His 804 passing yards in the last two games combined is also more than he has ever recorded in consecutive starts.
10: The number of times the Tiger-Cats and Argos have played back to back since 2000. Toronto has the upper hand with four sweeps to Hamilton’s two, and has settled for a split on two other occasions.
20: The percentage of games the Tiger-Cats have won over the course of their last 30 post-Classic appearances. Since 1986, Hamilton is 19-10-1 on Labour Day (for more than a 63 percent success rate), and 6-24 the week immediately after.
7: The number of games in which Brandon Banks has more than 100 receiving yards this season, which leads the CFL. The Tiger-Cats receiver is on pace to hit the 100-yard mark in as many as 13 games this season, which would set a new league record and smash the current Hamilton high of eight.
2: Consecutive home games in which the Argos have won by one point, which is a crazy rare phenomenon. Over the last 48 years, only four other teams have done it and only one — the 1997 Montreal Alouettes — has won three straight games at home by one point.
30: The number of fourth-quarter points the Tiger-Cats have racked up in their last two games combined. In their eight previous outings, they had 39 — that’s less than five points per game, and roughly 10 fewer than they have averaged over the past two weeks.
Weather: 19 C and mainly sunny.