Sydney vs. Essendon Battle For the Top 8 Features in AFL Round 14

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The revitalized Sydney Swans, and the rejuvenated Essendon Bombers are both toying with spots in the AFL’s top 8 now that we get to the latter half of the season. Their match up at the SCG on Friday night is the game of the week for round 14 in the AFL. West Coast Eagles vs. Melbourne also gets some of the spotlight in Saturday’s action, as the bye rounds are over, and the money rounds begin.

Adelaide Crows vs. Hawthorn (Thursday at Adelaide Oval)

Adelaide won this contest in round 2 by a handful of goals and the Crows have only risen since, while Hawthorn has fallen. The 4-8 Hawks have lost two straight and don’t look to be getting off the mat as their finals ambitions appear to be finished. The Crows continue to get steady performances from their veterans like Eddie Betts, and the benefit of newer faces stepping up like Hugh Greenwood. Hawthorn struggles to boot goals, and the likes of Jake Lever and Rory Laird should give them headaches all night. Look for the Crows to break out and kick a bag. Crows by 45

Sydney Swans vs. Essendon (Friday at the SCG)

Two of the best forwards in the AFL, Lance Franklin and Joe Daniher will square off at the SCG on Friday night, as the 5-7 Swans look to draw even with the 6-6 Bombers, a result that would keep both sides within striking distance of the top 8. A win for Essendon by contrast would put a massive damper on Sydney’s momentum, and demonstrate the Bombers are not going to suffer a second half slide that could very well be possible given potential fitness issues with their list. Both sides are talented, but Sydney has dominated the matchup in recent years, and frankly they have more talent. Presuming the likes of Isaac Heeney and Josh Kennedy put in good performance, the Swans at home are worthy favorites. Swans by 26

Collingwood vs. Port Adelaide (Saturday at the MCG)

Collingwood sits two wins back of Port at 5-7, and faces another must-win game if they are to keep pace with the rest of the top 8 contenders. The feisty Pies have struggled to kick goals, but shown plenty of heart this season. Port has struggled when facing some of the better sides in the competition, but against teams of Collingwood’s level their record is perfect thus far. I’ll back the Power backline in this one, they should keep Collingwood in check, while Chad Wingard and company put enough points on the board to secure a win and keep a great season going. Power by 18

Brisbane Lions vs. GWS Giants (Saturday at the Gabba)

The worst side in the AFL, against what is probably the best. This should be a massive mismatch, with a lopsided result. The Giants, even at less than full strength, have been Giant this season with a 9-3 record. The Lions are 2-10, and will simply be happy to scratch a couple more wins this season as they continue to rebuild. The Giants should dominate these Lion cubs despite Josh Kelly potentially being injured. The Lions Tom Rockliff was sick last week, and Brisbane fans will be hoping he can provide a stronger contribution. GWS averages eight more inside 50’s per game than Brisbane, and having forwards like Jeremy Cameron and Toby Greene gives them the advantage. Giants by 55

Western Bulldogs vs. North Melbourne (Saturday at Etihad Stadium)

Two sides suffering from terrible form. The Bulldogs are 6-6, and badly need to arrest their slide with a win against North Melbourne, which at 4-8 is out of finals contention, and looks to be losing steam. When these teams met in round 4, it was the Bulldogs by just 3 points, despite my lack of faith that the Bulldogs will be fully back in form, North has looked lost recently, and in particular their forward line was missing in action last week. Look for the likes of Jake Stringer and Jason Johannisen to lift and help the reigning premiers keep finals within sight. Bulldogs by 24

West Coast Eagles vs. Melbourne Demons (Saturday at Domain Stadium)

Given this matchup is at Domain Stadium, the Eagles have an edge, despite both teams sitting at 7-5, and Melbourne’s three game winning streak. The Demons have made strides in a big way this season, and in particular have been great at controlling the footy. The Eagles have suffered form dips this season, but their physical, team oriented approach to footy has paid off for the most part. West Coast has won nine in a row vs the Dees, and their midfield, including Luke Shuey and Dom Sheed should win the key matchups over the likes of Nathan Jones and Clayton Oliver. Eagles by 13

Geelong Cats vs. Fremantle (Sunday at Simonds Stadium)

Playing at home against the struggling Dockers, Geelong should remain a top four side and secure a 9-4 record through 15 games. At 6-6, with an awful percentage, the Dockers are seeing their finals hopes vanish and given Geelong is the more talented side with better performing stars (Dangerfield and Hawkins>Fyfe and Hill). The Cats aren’t the strongest side in the competition, but they should buzzsaw a Fremantle side that can lose faith and get steamrolled if things aren’t working. Cats by 59 

Richmond vs. Carlton (Sunday at the MCG)

Two of Victoria’s biggest sporting names, the 7-5 Tigers are still in the top 8, but have suffered a host of painful defeats this season. The Blues are feeling bullish at 5-7 on the back of two straight wins. In round 1 Richmond, led by Dustin Martin, put on a show at the MCG and put away Carlton in the second half. The Tigers haven’t faded from that quality this season, but Carlton has improved a lot, as their young side is getting better every day. Bryce Gibbs vs. Dustin Martin, and Levi Casboult vs. Jack Riewoldt are two of the biggest matchups on the ground. That said, Richmond’s backline, led by Alex Rance and Bachar Houli, should stymie the Blues enough to give Richmond a key edge. Liam Jones and Sam Docherty are on the other side hoping to keep Richmond’s small forward line under wraps, and this game could be kept low scoring as a result. Tigers by 17

St. Kilda vs. Gold Coast Suns (Sunday at Etihad Stadium)

Another 6-6 vs 5-7 matchup that can be considered a “must-win” for the 5-7 side. The Suns travel down to Victoria hoping to knock off a St. Kilda side that is brimming with confidence after a win last week and saw key players like Seb Ross and Leigh Montagna step up last week. The Suns dropped a key game to Carlton last round and with Michael Barlow out for the season with a broken leg, Gold Coast is missing an experienced veteran contributor. The Suns have the talent to win this, but I’ll trust the Saints of the two sides to secure a win, likely late in the second half.  The Saints should only worry about improving their goal kicking from last week. Saints by 9

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