Freo v Pies - This one is match of the round. Can the Pies consistency, attack on the footy, varied attack and excellent running defense take on a hard and fast running Freo? Pav and Sandilands are the keys to this game. They dominate Freo win, they get shut down (or injured) Pies win. Yes the ground is a factor, as is the return trip from Bris Vegas for the Dockers, as is the first trip away from Melbourne for the Pies. I reckon this will be close and its damn hard to pick, so when in doubt, go the home team. Freo by 3.
Dogs v Swans - At the start of the year it would be Dogs by a mile. But now, I think there are a lot of question marks over a Dogs side that hasn't beaten anyone of note and has been visibly struggling. The Dogs have had the wood over the Swans in the last couple of years, beating them twice at Manuka in that time and the Swans have lost their second ruckman in Mumford. I think the later is the more telling. Sydney relies on its rucks to create the stoppage situation that they love so much. So Dogs, without confidence, by 12.
Dees v Eagles - Jack Watts is in! Surely that means Melbourne will win? Well actually it probably won't make much difference at all. Watts is all hype and no action. However, Melbourne will win and its simply because they are a better team than the traveling Eagles. The Eagles are pretty horrid by foot and whilst they have found a forward in Kennedy, Arnock or Frawley will quiet him much better than those he faced last week. Dees by 36
Lions v Cats - Some important ins for the Lions (Patfull and Maguire) and a big out for the Cats (Podsiadly) and it is at the Gabba. However regardless of the 40+ point job the Lions did on the Cats last year when the Cats sent their 'C' Grade reserves up to Brisbane, I can't see that form holding true this time. The Cats are in great form and the Lions aren't. Cats midfield will smash the Lions mids and Brown and Fev will be starved. Even if they do get it down there, Scarlett and Taylor are good enough to restrict the Lions big boys. Cats by 40.
North v Crows - The Crows played 15 mins of football last week, and arguably for the year. Its simply not enough. Yes the Roos got belted but they seem an astute outfit that will learn and frankly they are better than the rudderless Crows at the moment. Everything that needed to go right for the Crows hasn't this year, and being away from home adds to their problems. North should win, and it should be comfortable, 24.
Tiges v Hawks - The Tigers played 3 1/2 quarters last week and they still lost, and that was against a team that only played 15 minutes. The Hawks battled and at least put in an effort, but this week they bring in 3 players that should be in the top 5 at the club in Mitchell, Franklin and Burgoyne (finally). Whilst I don't expect anything from Burger, Mitch and Buddy should come back as though they haven't missed a beat. Hawks are stronger all over the ground. I cannot see how the Tigers will win this game. Hawks by 60+
Port v Blues - This game could be a cracker! Port have been one of the surprise packets and they have played very well at home. The Blues have also been somewhat surprising and have a functioning forward line thanks to player ability and coaching tactics that have long been criticised (by me at least). And of course they have Judd, that essentially completes their midfield. Tredrea out is big for the Power, but they have the defensive unit to take on the Carlton forwards. This is a really tough game to pick, but again, I'll go homeground and pick Port, 15
Saints v Don - There are two likely outcomes. The Bombers will come out and blow the wavering Saints down with run and carry or St Kilda will beat the Dons into submission with god-awful boring football. So whats more likely? can the Dons (who are not as good as Carlton regardless of the result earlier this year) beat what was a quality team missing the most important player for its structure? My guts says there must be some more depth to St Kilda and they have been planning to counter the run of the Dons. I think the Dons are too inexperienced and ultimately that will be there undoing. The Saints are seasoned, they'll pick themselves up and do the job. 18.