Argos need miracle down home stretch
Coach Jim Barker had grander expectations for the 2011 season than the woeful 3-9 record presently worn by his Toronto Argonauts.
With just six games to play, the Boatmen’s chances of making the playoffs are appearing increasingly grim.
When the season kicked off in June, there were lofty expectations for the club coming off a 9-9 campaign and a trip to the Eastern Division final, albeit there, they suffered a blowout loss.
The Argos were expecting quarterback Cleo Lemon, who struggled mightily in his first Canadian Football League season, to make a dramatic leap, and brought in six-year veteran Steven Jyles via trade to put some pressure on the incumbent starter.
While Jyles missed most of training camp recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, Lemon failed to capitalize on his chance at redemption, leading Toronto to a disappointing 2-7 start.
In the first week of September, with the Argos ranking dead last among all CFL clubs in total yards per game (312.1), and passing yards (277.3), Barker made the bold decision to cut his top pivot lose.
Jyles is now at the helm of the ship, but has a ho-hum 1-2 record since the quarterback swap.
Last weekend, Toronto pulled the upset, disposing the East Division-leading Blue Bombers 25-24, and will need to not only build off that win, but essentially run the table in order to have a shot at qualifying for the post-season.
Currently, the Argonauts rank last in the East, three victories behind the third-place Tiger-Cats.
Six of the eight CFL teams will make the post-season, headlined by the top two clubs from each division.
Although Saskatchewan is just a single game ahead record wise, the Argos are looking like long shots to displace either Hamilton or B.C. from its current third-place standing.
In the last two CFL seasons, it took eight wins for the Lions to bag the last available playoff slot and it is becoming increasingly likely that it will take a similar win count for the Argos this time around.
What are the chances Toronto can secure wins in five of its final six contests?
According to gambling site Bodog.ca, the Argonauts have 50/1 odds of winning the Grey Cup.
The road to the playoffs appears daunting, starting with a home game against the rival Tiger-Cats (6-6) on Saturday at Rogers Centre.
If Barker’s boys can survive the stiff test, their mettle will surely be measured in three consecutive matchups with Montreal (7-5), Calgary (7-5) and Edmonton (7-5), a trio they’ve gone a combined 1-3 against this season.
It hasn’t been a pretty year for the Argos, to put it mildly. Before last week’s win over Winnipeg, Toronto ranked last among all CFL clubs in passing yards, touchdowns and points scored.
Making matters worse, Toronto’s notoriously CFL-weary fan base has grown increasingly apathetic with each additional notch on the loss column.
With the lowest attendance figures in the league, the Argos are in need of some late-season magic to not only make a push for the playoffs, but ideally draw some intrigue from their southern Ontario faithful.
Injuries have played their part – namely to all-star left tackle Rob Murphy – but when it comes to wallowing teams, it seems that is always the case.
When it is all said and done, it may simply go down as a season of missed opportunities, where one too many breaks just failed to go the way of the seemingly hapless Argos.
Even though the odds appear bleak, there are games left to be played, starting this weekend, when the visiting black and gold traverse the QEW for a 7 p.m. ET start.
Toronto may ultimately fall short, and write this season off, hopefully with a few lessons learned.
But nothing is certain until the final whistle blows.
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