The focus remains squarely upon the B.C. Lions but quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and the Toronto Argonauts are fully aware of what lies ahead.
Toronto (8-6) hosts B.C. (10-4) on Saturday night at BMO Field. The Argos sit atop the East Division and have clinched a playoff spot but the Montreal Alouettes (7-7) are right behind them with both teams having four regular-season games remaining.
Toronto will face B.C. and then head to Edmonton next week before finishing up with a home-and-home series versus Montreal. The Alouettes open a home-and-home set with Ottawa, starting Monday, and will host the Argos on Oct. 22 before travelling to BMO Field on Oct. 29.
Montreal has won three straight and five of its last six games. But Bethel-Thompson said neither he nor the Argos are looking that far ahead.
“We know what’s on the schedule ahead, it’s just taking things week by week,” he said. “Anytime you’re trying to hold on to something three weeks down the road you’re not concentrating on the moment.
“We have to concentrate on B.C. coming into our house, protecting our house and playing up to our potential, which we haven’t done.”
Toronto is coming off a 29-2 road loss to the Calgary Stampeders last week. The two points was the Argos’ lowest total since a 26-0 loss to Edmonton on July 25, 2019.
Bethel-Thompson was 19-of-38 passing for 194 yards and two interceptions as Calgary registered three picks overall.
“We laid an egg across the board,” he said. “I don’t believe they’re a better team than us.
“It looked like they were but they weren’t. We just laid an egg, didn’t perform, didn’t execute. When you don’t perform and don’t execute you look like crap. We’re excited to get back on the field and perform better.”
Bethel-Thompson said a performance like last week’s in Calgary sticks with him for much of the following week.
“It haunts me for days until I get back on the field,” he said. “As I’m practising I’m working through it and getting to the other side of it.
“When you get to game day, you can flush it and get a new performance.”
The Lions will certainly present a big challenge for Toronto. B.C.’s defence is ranked first overall in a host of categories, including fewest offensive points allowed (20.4) and offensive yards (321.7) and second in interceptions (12).
“That’s a very good defence,” Bethel-Thompson said. “They rush hard, their DBs play aggressive.
“They will play man, they will threaten us and then they have multiple coverages on the back end. They’re pretty much a solid defence top to bottom … a really good group.”
B.C. is also 5-1 away from B.C. Place this season and 4-1 against East Division rivals. The Lions have also clinched a playoff spot, their first since 2018.
Toronto is 4-3 at home but 2-4 against Western clubs.
Bethel-Thompson said the Argos don’t have to re-invent the wheel offensively against B.C.
“It’s like always, you have to be efficient on first down, you have to stay on the field and sustain drives and hit your shots when you take them,” he said. “It’s kind of like Football 101.”
The Lions are 2-2 since acquiring veteran quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. from Montreal on Aug. 31. Adams has made three starts with B.C. — winning two — and has yet to throw an interception in 81 pass attempts.
Adams was 17-of-22 passing for 305 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 34-19 home win over Ottawa. It was his seventh career 300-yard game, two of which have come against Toronto.
The Lions defeated Toronto 44-3 on July 25 at B.C. Place Stadium. Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke, currently out with a foot injury, threw for 436 yards and four TDs in that contest.
B.C. will also be without receiver Lucky Whitehead (ankle). Whitehead is the Lions’ second-leading receiver with 73 catches for 966 yards and three TDs.
Dominique Rhymes (71 catches, 1,165 yards, 10 TDs) is the Lions top receiver.
Toronto’s defence will be minus defensive end Shane Ray (season-ending torn bicep), linebacker Wynton McManis (knee) and halfback Maurice Carnell IV (knee) while defensive back DaShaun Amos (ankle) is a game-time decision. Cornerback Jamal Peters (CFL-high six interceptions) returns after missing last week’s game due to injury.
Toronto’s defence has scored touchdowns this season (five interceptions, two fumble returns), the most for the Argos since 2000 (modern era club record of eight).
Offensively, receivers DaVaris Daniels (hip) and Damonte Coxie (foot) will be out.
Bethel-Thompson is 2-3 against B.C. while Adams is 2-2 versus Toronto.
B.C. has won four of the last five games against Toronto but the Argos captured the last meeting at BMO Field 31-29 in overtime in 2021.
Bethel-Thompson is second overall in CFL passing (3,866 yards) and is closing on a second 4,000-yard campaign. He threw for 4,024 yards in 2019.
—Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press