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Argos’ playoff hopes still alive, but barely

Argos head coach Scott Milanovich, watching his team play in Regina in 2014, faces a must-win game against Roughriders on Saturday.

Matt Smith/The Canadian Press

BMO Field hasn't exactly been home sweet home this season for Scott Milanovich and the Toronto Argonauts.

Toronto (5-10) finishes its regular-season home schedule Saturday afternoon playing host to the Saskatchewan Roughriders (4-10). The Argos are just 2-6 at their new stadium and have dropped four in a row and eight of nines games overall.

Toronto's lone win over that span was a 33-21 decision against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sept. 11, which incidentally marked the last time the club was victorious at BMO Field. The Argos opened the season well enough, winning four of their first six games, before falling into their present funk.

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"We haven't done particularly well anywhere after the first six games of the season," Milanovich said matter-of-factly. "The only real honest answer I can give you is we just haven't had very much continuity in any phase – offence, defence or special teams.

"It's an excuse, for sure, but we play well in spurts and for quarters ... but we haven't been able to keep it together the way we had the first three quarters. There's 10 to 12 plays going on out there that are keeping us from being able to find ways to win."

Defensive lineman Bryan Hall was at a loss to explain Toronto's home struggles.

"I honestly can't," he said. "We've been busting our tails all year and unfortunately we haven't had those breaks yet.

"We have one more game at home guaranteed and we want to make the best of it and finish strong."

Despite the mounting losses, Toronto remains in playoff contention, albeit just barely. The Argos are third in the East Division behind Ottawa (6-7-1) and Hamilton (6-8-0), who meet at Tim Hortons Field this weekend to open an important home-and-home series.

To make the playoffs, Toronto must either finish second in the East Division or amass as many or more points than the West Division's fourth-place team. The latter would seem difficult given the Edmonton Eskimos (8-7) currently stand fourth in the Western conference with three regular-season games remaining.

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Seeing the Argos winning Saturday is difficult, considering Saskatchewan comes in having won three straight games. And after Saturday's game, Toronto takes to the road to play Calgary (14-1-1) and Edmonton.

Still, Milanovich remains undeterred.

"If you're around the CFL long enough you know it's never over until it's over," Milanovich said. "Eight [wins] will generally get you in and we're still in position where we can win eight [games].

"Beyond that, we'd need a lot of help if we weren't to win three. You know it's possible [but] you hate to take it out of your hands and that's what we've done."

But Toronto must first contend with a Saskatchewan squad brimming with confidence following wins over Edmonton, Hamilton and Ottawa. And then there's the unpredictability of Chris Jones, the Riders' head coach and vice-president of football operations. Milanovich knows Jones well from their time together in Montreal as well as Jones being Milanovich's defensive co-ordinator with the Argos in 2012-13

"They tend to be fairly aggressive anyway," Milanovich said. "Any time you play coach Jones, you expect him to go for it or a fake punt on the one-yard line, any of those things.

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"You know you have to be prepared for them. I wouldn't anticipate that they'll hold anything back."

Defensively speaking, Hall said the Argos must get to Darian Durant, the Riders' veteran quarterback.

"These last few games he has been playing lights out and is leading that team," Hall said. "That's the head, that's where it starts.

"They have a big, physical offensive line and it's going to be a challenge for us. He's going to do a great job getting the ball out, he's going to test our entire defence. We definitely have to get pressure on him."

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