Friday 7:50pm AEST
This is an intriguing betting match to kick off the round with Essendon, normally great value when they are the underdogs at Etihad, suddenly the favourites after Sydney suffered the biggest upset in 24 years last week at the hands of the Gold Coast.
A side with as much experience and talent as the Swans will surely respond after such a dismal performance.
But we don’t think it will be enough to beat the Bombers, who have been quietly building with seven wins in the past nine matches.
Orazio Fantasia is a huge inclusion for the Bombers with the cult figure notching nine goals in the past two weeks.
The Bombers haven’t beaten Sydney since 2011 with their major weakness – lack of depth in inside midfielders – exposed by the Swans.
Essendon is still yet to fully rectify that problem and because of that, Josh Kennedy is likely to have a field day - so back him for most disposals.
This is a rare game where you can get better than even money for both sides with $2.10 currently available for both teams – for those punters with big bankrolls!
Best Bet: Essendon to win at $2.10*
Value Bet: Essendon to be leading at every quarter at $2.88*
You can mount a convincing case that there are only two very good sides in the competition.
Richmond, of course and West Coast, especially now that they have Jack Darling, Josh Kennedy and to a lesser extent, Mark LeCras back in the side are those two teams.
Collingwood was dismantled by the Eagles only two matches ago and that seems to be forgotten by all those giving the Pies a chance of knocking off the premiership favourites at the home of football.
The Tigers will win this well and will set a new record for most victories in a row at the MCG.
By Saturday night, the Tigers will be close to even money to win the flag. So, take the $2.60 now for Richmond to win the flag, knowing that they will have two finals at the MCG which will put them in as favourites on grand final day and you can back their opponent for a profit.
Best Bet: Richmond -15.5 at $1.91*
Value Bet: Rich 40-59 points at $6*
Since the mid-season bye, Brisbane has been one of the best teams in the competition.
Beating Geelong at home, a ground they haven’t won at since 2003, would be their best win yet. But they did defeat Hawthorn at their fortress in Launceston only a fortnight ago, so aren’t to be taken lightly by the Cats.
There is an argument to say that Geelong is actually a worse side against bottom ten sides than they are against the top eight teams.
With the Tigers and Hawks at the MCG to come in the next fortnight, a slip-up here could be fatal for Geelong’s finals hopes, but it won’t be the percentage booster that they need with the Lions to continue to their recent improvement.
Brisbane has won the past four second halves and that looks decent value to win that again on Saturday at $4.10.
Despite Tom Hawkins in career-best form (top scoring for the Cats in the past nine weeks), keep in mind that Harris Andrews (the best young defender in the game) is tipped to make his return from the concussion that he suffered at the hands (or elbow) of Jeremy Cameron.
Best Bet: Brisbane +34.5 at $1.91*
Value Bet: Brisbane to win second half at $4.10*
This could get ugly for a St Kilda side who will be experimenting with team selection and placement.
St Kilda’s best forward of the season, Jade Gresham, was last week moved into a full time midfielder role, which the young star excelled at with 24 touches, seven clearances and two goals. That has set the tone for the remainder of the season with the magnets to be thrown around.
Nick Coffield, Blake Acres and Lewis Pierce could all get a call up this week, while Nathan Freeman and Ben Paton may make their debut.
All this change will suit a GWS lineup which is arguably the most inform team in the competition at the moment.
With Jeremy Cameron only one more week away from returning from suspension, the Giants will be the team that no one wants to face in the finals.
Percentage isn’t a factor for GWS after their draw with St Kilda earlier in the season, but you can rest assured there will be no letting up for the Saints.
GWS to win by ten goals plus.
Best Bet: GWS -39.5 at $1.91*
Value Bet: GWS 70-79 at $10*
Well, isn’t this a big game now.
The Crows are just lurking around the edge of the top eight and there will be a few teams hoping they don’t make it because as we have seen over the past three seasons, their best is very hard to beat.
It will be interesting to see how Melbourne responds after that devastating loss to Geelong last week and we reckon that they still might be suffering from it.
If the Demons are in front in the last quarter and the Crows get a run on, the mental demons (pardon the pun) could come back to haunt Simon Goodwin’s side.
We’re tipping an Adelaide victory and with that, we still think $2.90 for Melbourne to miss the finals is good value.
If they lose this one, they will probably have to win two of West Coast away and Sydney and GWS at home to make it.
We’re tipping the Crows to win and for some value, back the Demons to be up at three quarter time and lose at $11.
Best Bet: Adelaide to win at $1.78*
Value Bet: Adelaide to be down at three quarter time and win at $11*
For the first time in a very long time last week, we saw a Gold Coast side full of confidence as they sensed victory over the Swans in the biggest upset in 24 years.
They should carry that confidence into this week’s match against the soon-to-be wooden spooners Carlton who are coming off a scoreless first quarter against Hawthorn, which has raised comparisons with the Fitzroy team of 1996 as the worst team of the AFL era.
To make matters worse for the Blues, they have lost both Zac Fisher and Liam Jones to injury which will deplete the side even further.
It is amazing the difference a win can make and now people are rightly praising the young talent at the Suns like Lachie Weller (23 touches and two goals last week), Touk Miller (25 touches and one goal) and Will Brodie (27 touches).
If the Suns get on top early, this could be a blowout against a Carlton side desperate for the season to finish.
The line for the Suns at 21.5 won’t last long so use that as an anchor in your multis for the weekend.
Best Bet: Gold Coast -21.5 at $1.91*
Value Bet: Gold Coast 40-49 points at $9*
North Melbourne has never lost at Hobart when they have been favourites, with the Roos carrying a nine and zip record.
The bookies are currently just swayed in West Coast’s favour at the moment, but that could easily change with team selection and the weather conditions.
We’re tipping the Kangas either way, who are a very good side at Blundstone Arena and will need to bounce back from last week’s disappointment if they are to maintain a chance of making the finals.
The Roos have some winnable games on the run home with Brisbane, Western Bulldogs, Adelaide and St Kilda following the Eagles and if they win four of them, they will make the finals - so they aren’t the worst bet at $5.
We think it will be a close one, but the Roos will be too good in the end.
North Melbourne always struggle to contain Josh Kennedy, who has amassed 16 goals in the past four games against the Shinboners, so he could be value despite the short odds in most goals markets.
The wind usually plays havoc in Hobart so if you’re quick enough, back whoever wins the toss to win the first quarter.
Best Bet: North Melbourne to win at $2.06*
Value Bet: West Coast to lead at half time and lose at $7.50*
Fremantle has won six of nine games at Optus Stadium this season, with one of those losses against West Coast, so $3 for the Dockers against an inconsistent Hawks team is good value.
The Hawks will be without their number one tagger Daniel Howe after he belted Patrick Cripps, so Lachie Neale will be very happy.
Hawthorn had eight players last week who had played under 50 games and with young players, inconsistency is never too far away.
The Hawks have thrown up shockers against North Melbourne and Brisbane (x2) away from the MCG this year and we’re sensing that another one could be around the corner against Fremantle.
Bailey Banfield will get the tagging job on Tom Mitchell, so be careful if you’re backing him in most disposals markets.
To be safe, take the line for Freo. But if you’re one or two behind in the office tipping competition, this could be your roughie for the week to pick.
Best Bet: Fremantle +15.5 at $1.90*
Value Bet: Fremantle to win at $3*
Port Adelaide pretty much lost last week’s match against GWS in the ruck with Dawson Simpson dominating with Power’s Paddy Ryder out injured.
The Power are lucky they are facing a side without a quality ruckman in the Bulldogs this week, so that disadvantage should be negated for one round at least.
It’s a pretty unique ground in terms of dimensions the old Eureka Stadium and the highest score kicked in the two matches there so far is only 96 points, so take the unders for match total markets.
The Power did win the first match at the ground there last year so should have no trouble getting the four points here, but we are tipping the Dogs to keep the margin in check.
For those dabbling with a same goal multi, Ollie Wines has averaged 30 touches in his past three matches against the Dogs so look at him for most disposals, or just to rack up another 30.
No surprise that the ball magnet Jack Macrae has the best record for the Dogs, with an average of 26 over his past four games.
Best Bet: Port Adelaide to be leading at half and full time at $1.70*
Value Bet: Port Adelaide to win by 10-19 points at $6.50*