[b]HIGH-POWER ALS OFFENCE SET TO MEET STINGY LIONS DEFENCE[/b] VANCOUVER - It's not getting any easier for quarterback Anthony Calvillo and the Montreal Alouettes.
Montreal's high-octane passing attack has faced solid CFL defences the last two weeks, losing at home to the Calgary Stampeders, then on the road Saturday to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Up next Friday will be the B.C. Lions (TSN, 10 p.m. ET), who are tops in the CFL in fewest passing yards allowed (972), interceptions (10) and sacks (14).
But Calvillo, who admits he's getting close to the end of his career after hitting the 50,000-yard passing plateau last season, is again directing the CFL's top aerial attack.
He leads all quarterbacks with 1,377 passing yards and 11 touchdowns after four games. However, he expects the Lions' secondary will be trouble.
"There's really not a weak link," Calvillo said following Thursday's workout. "They don't give a lot of space to receivers so we know, as an offensive unit, it's going to be a challenge for us.
"When we look at the film and see how tough they're playing, this is our biggest test to date."
The Edmonton Eskimos are in Hamilton to face the Tiger-Cats on Friday night (TSN, 7 p.m. ET). The Toronto Argonauts take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday night (TSN, 7 p.m. ET) as Argos quarterback Kerry Joseph makes his first return to Regina since being traded to Ontario in the off-season by the Riders.
B.C. (2-2) has overcome an 0-2 start with consecutive wins over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Montreal (2-2), on the other hand, has lost two straight.
Still, Montreal is tied for first in the East Division while the Lions are tied for last in the West Division standings.
The Lions' secondary has equal respect for Calvillo, even though Montreal is 0-7 here since a 32-25 victory Aug. 31, 2000.
"A.C. is always a challenge," said Lions defensive back Ryan Phillips who led the CFL with 12 interceptions in 2007 and has one this year. "He's on the upper scale of the quarterbacks in the league without a question.
"He's seen all the defences, all the schemes that you can offer."
Defensive tackle Tyrone Williams said Calvillo, a 15-year veteran, can get out of trouble when he's feeling the heat from the pass rush.
"He's not noted as the most mobile quarterback but you forget he's an athlete," Williams said. "He's very knowledgeable about the game, gets good reads and knows how to play the game."
Rookie Montreal coach Marc Trestman said the B.C. secondary doesn't employ complicated schemes but is difficult to throw against.
"They know they're good, they know they can cover, they know they have great technique and experience, so it makes it very difficult," Trestman said.
B.C. slotback Geroy Simon could equal one team record and set another with his first catch of the game.
Simon needs four yards to surpass Jim Young's 9,248 receiving yards and one touchdown to tie his 65 receiving majors.
"It's something that you want to get over with early so you can focus on playing the rest of the game," Simon said of the yardage record.
Simon has recorded 309 receiving yards and three TDs in the two games against Winnipeg, mainly because the coaching staff has called his number more often.
"I can't make plays unless the ball's coming my way," Simon said. "I've had more opportunities to catch the ball and do something with it."
Punishing tailback Joe Smith returns to the Lions backfield after missing two weeks with a shoulder injury, replacing the diminutive Stefan Logan, who was stopped twice last game inside the Winnipeg three-yard line.
"Joe is more of a physical guy," said quarterback Jarious Jackson who threw for a career high 396 yards last week against the Bombers and is fourth among CFL passers with 995 yards. "Who wants to come downhill and hit a 230-pound guy for four quarters straight?
"By the end of the game, he definitely wears and tears on the other team's defence."
The Lions have allowed a league-high 11 sacks this season and Jackson said the key to winning will be solid play in the trenches.
"You have to set the tone early," Jackson said. "You have to control the line of scrimmage to be successful."
So who do you predict to win this? I think it will be a close game with the Lions prevailing 28-24. Montreal just can't seem to win at BC Place.