So there are 4 rounds to go and anything is possible, well almost anything. There are some givens, like the following teams will not make the finals: Carlton, Richmond, Brisbane, Port, Dogs, Dees, Suns and Giants.
The top 4 is settled: Sydney, Adelaide, Collingwood and Hawthorn will be the top 4. Geelong would need some unexpected results to make it and the Eagles are gone. However, the order is far from settled.
The Cats and West Coast are certainties, although West Coast looks shot and can't win the flag.
Which leaves 2 spots to be won from Essendon, North, St Kilda and Fremantle.
So who is going to make up the top 8? Here are the key games which will impact the finals (assuming finals teams aren't ridiculously upset):
WC v Geelong - Geelong is flying, WC struggling. But its over in Perth and Geelong has a habit of losing after classic Hawks games, such is their emotional and physical investment, against decent teams. Really tough one to pick, but I'll have to back the Cats on form.
Adelaide v Fremantle - It's in Adelaide and the Crows are doing enough, but Freo has kicked up a gear and this one could easily be an upset. If Adelaide wins, they finish top 2 as the rest of their games are gimmies, but I reckon Freo's form gives them the win.
Swans v Pies - Swans are just taking all before them. The lose of Bolton will hurt, but the Pies seem to be doing just enough and not much more. I reckon the Swans will break their hoodoo because they're form is just so much better.
Bombers v North - Massive game for both clubs. Winner may well guarantee themselves a top 8 spot. Essendon showed a bit against Adelaide, and almost pinched it. I'm not sure if that says a lot about the Bombers or the Crows though. North, they just keep winning. I'll back their form in this one.
Relevant Ladder after round 20
6 West Coast
10 St Kilda
Geelong v Saints - Cats are just the better side, so they'll win. Sure the Perth travel factor is a big one and its at Etihad, but it would be a big upset for the Saints to win.
Essendon v Carlton - I've knocked Carlton a lot, but they may well have a few back, including Judd. Their form will lift, and Essendon keeps losing players to injury. Think the Blues will win, but nothing in it.
Pies v North - This game is a fascinating one for me. The Pies are lacklustre, and North seems to be flying, but you have to back the Pies for class. An upset wouldn't surprise though and would really make people take notice of North. Can't see the Pies losing two in a row either
Relevant Ladder after round 21
6 West Coast
11 St Kilda
Richmond v Essendon - The Tigers have lifted and Essendon continue to spiral. This is the nail for Essendon's season.
Sydney v Hawks - Huge game for the Hawks, and one I can't see them winning on the small SCG. It's too tight for the uncontested, spreading style they favour. Swans will win. If the Hawks get the upset then its top 2 for them.
WC v Pies - Pies are just too good and WC has been unconvincing. It could easily be won by the Eagles as its in Perth, but interstate trips hold no fear for the Pies. Pies to win and get back on track.
North v Freo - Its in Melbourne, so North will win and continue their remarkable run.
Relevant Ladder after round 22
6 West Coast
10 St Kilda
Carlton v St Kilda - Massive game, but ultimately a battle for 9th. Saints.
Pies v Bombers - Bombers gone. Pies win.
Hawks v WC - Its at the MCG so I can't see the Eagles winning. Hawks too good there.
Cats v Sydney - Absolutely fascinating game! Its at Skilled so Geelong is the obvious tip, but the Swans will be on a massive streak, and can beat them there. I'll tip the Cats, but just.
Relevant Ladder after round 23
8 West Coast
9 St Kilda
So there it is. My best guess of how the season finishes. Round 1 of the finals, Sydney v Hawks, Adelaide v Pies, Cats v West Coast, North v Freo.
Of course, so many of those games could go either way, especially those involving the top 4. Swans v Hawks, Swans v Pies, WC v Pies, WC v Cats, Pies v North are all massive and will hugely influence the ladder.