Preview: Fajardo returns to lineup vs. Bombers on Thursday

The Montreal Alouettes will begin a critical stretch of the season starting this week. Over the next four weeks, they’ll be taking on three opponents who are ahead of them in the standings in Winnipeg, B.C. and Toronto (twice).

The Als will go into Winnipeg on Thursday night riding a four-game winning streak. They have a 6-3 record at the midway point of the season, but one of those three losses came on July 1st against the Blue Bombers.

The Als have a 3-1 record on the road this season, as they beat Hamilton (twice) and Ottawa. Their only road defeat came against the B.C. Lions.

Here’s what you need to know about this week’s game:

Cody Fajardo is back & other lineup notes

Cody Fajardo (shoulder) will be making his return to the lineup after missing the last two games due to injury. The Alouettes managed to beat Saskatchewan and Ottawa without their starting quarterback, but getting back an impact player is always good news.

In seven starts, the 31-year-old quarterback has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1877 yards and six touchdowns. He has also rushed the ball 31 times for 174 yards and three scores in 2023.

“If it was my early years in the league, I think (the long layoff) would’ve affected me,” Fajardo said after Tuesday’s practice. “It being a short week, I think just overall as a team, we’re kind of behind the eight-ball. It’s one of those things where you kind of have a bye week or an extended period of time (off). You just go out there and you don’t really think about it. Football is football when you get back out there.”

For the second time this season, running backs Walter Fletcher and William Stanback will both be in the lineup in the same game. Fletcher had his best outing of the season two weeks ago against the Roughriders when he ran for 73 yards while adding a 68-yard reception.

Global receiver Kevin Kaya will make his 2023 season debut. The 28-year-old suited up in five games last season. He caught two passes for 25 yards in those outings.

Receivers Quartney Davis and Jake Harty, who were both injured against Ottawa, won’t play.

Short Week:

The players won’t be getting much rest ahead of this week’s game at IG Field, as they’re coming off a road game in Ottawa on Saturday night. Playing two games away from home in five days isn’t easy on the body or the mind.

The Als only had time to practice once this week, which makes it difficult to improve in those areas that need work.

“You’d like to have a schedule where every week is the same, which in this league it’s not, but ultimately when you don’t have those workdays, it’s harder to get better, too,” head coach Jason Maas explained. “Our focus is on getting better each week. When you don’t practice, it’s harder to get better. The message to our guys is that mentally we have to be there. Physically, we’re going to give them enough rest to recover from games. It is hard for guys to recover on a short week.”

The Bombers:

The Blue Bombers are riding a four-game winning streak of their own, as they haven’t lost since July 15th in Ottawa. Like the Als, they’ll also be getting their starting quarterback back, as Zach Collaros is expected to play after missing one game with an upper-body injury.

“They’re a good team,” offensive lineman Pier-Olivier Lestage said. “They’re on a roll, too. We know that Winnipeg has been a great team in the league for the last five or six years. On top of that, we’re going on the road, so we’ll need to be ready. We have to play a sound game and not shoot ourselves in the foot.”