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AFL Round 23 preview

It's the final round of the AFL season before the finals. This year though, the top eight is settled so there are a lot of dead rubbers and teams resting players for next week to factor in. Oh, and players who are counting down the hours until Mad Monday...

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AFL Round 23 preview courtesy of AFLRatings.com.au, @AFLRatings

Last Home & Away round for the 2015 season, this could be the first time this year that all nine favourites win. Here are our thoughts for Round 23:

Richmond 14-7 v North Melbourne 13-8

North Melbourne are taking the conservative approach to this game with a guaranteed spot in the finals next week, Richmond are still a very remote chance of finishing in the Top 4 and should be fully committed to winning this game. The Kangaroos have made nine changes to their team from a week ago, they are at a significant disadvantage but have taken a team first approach in preparing for the finals in this game. The betting line sits at a healthy -48.5 Richmond, the expectations are that the Tigers will win this game comfortably and if they have a generous lead at HT will press deep in to the game to ensure a healthy percentage rise just in case the Swans lose to the Suns and they slip in to fourth. Analysing this game is likely a useless exercise, but the total match points line of O/U 186.5 does look quite high for what could be a non-event. These teams likely face each other next week in an elimination final, there could be a fair bit of safe footy played thus reducing time for scoring. Richmond & North Melbourne each have a 3-5 record vs Top 8 teams this year, the Kangaroos defeated the Tigers by 35pts in Hobart earlier this year.

Geelong 10-2-9 v Adelaide 13-1-7

Geelong have missed the finals for the first time since 2006 and have a last home game to celebrate a few of their stars from a golden era of AFL with three premierships. Adelaide were outstanding last week disposing of the hottest team in the AFL (West Coast), their emphatic win sealed the last remaining Final 8 position available. Adelaide cannot afford to take the Cats likely, albeit unlikely they are still a remote chance of securing a Home Final over the Western Bulldogs who will be playing at the same time. Geelong has a 3-7 record v Top 8 teams this year and 4-3 record at their home ground Simonds Stadium in Geelong. The Crows have averaged 142.7pts FOR in their last three games whilst conceding only 56.0pts AGA in their last four games. Geelong are heading in the opposite direction conceding 109.3pts AGA from their last three games, the Cats haven’t been in a position for ten years where a game meant nothing to their season and it won’t take much for a little drop off from a few players that could be detrimental to the outcome of this game.

Brisbane 3-18 v Western Bulldogs 14-7

Brisbane are likely to finish at the bottom of the AFL ladder at the end of this game, but the bigger impact may come from their upcoming off-season with rumours of player unrest. The Western Bulldogs must win to avoid a likely travel game v Adelaide in week one of the finals, the Bulldogs only have a 2-3 travel record in 2015 but have a 9-3 record against teams that are not going to play Finals this year. Defensively Brisbane have struggled this year, they are ranked 17th conceding 104.0pts per game including 111.5pts AGA in their last six games. The Bulldogs can score heavily, they have averaged 115.5pts FOR from the last six games. Not expecting an upset here with so much on the line for the Bulldogs, their forward line should be able to hit the scoreboard often enough to secure a win.

Port Adelaide 11-10 v Fremantle 17-4

Port Adelaide are storming home to finish the 2015 H&A season, they have won their last five of six matches. Fremantle have secured top spot on the AFL Ladder and have taken the option of resting 11 players for this game, they are at best taking a ‘D-’ team to meet a ‘B+’ team in to the game at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday. Quite simply, Port Adelaide are going to win this game comfortably and finish their season with 12 wins. A waste of time doing any type of analysis, but again the total match points line appears to be on the high side at O/U 184.5. Not expecting Fremantle to hit the scoreboard all that often so most of the scoring will need to be completed by Port Adelaide, the Dockers were embarrassed in similar circumstances two years ago conceding 112pts to St Kilda in a 71pt defeat and that is likely to be repeated against the Power this week.

Hawthorn 15-6 v Carlton 4-17

This was a mismatch six weeks ago when Carlton lost by 138pts to Hawthorn at Etihad Stadium on a dark night for the Blues, it is the largest losing margin by the club in its history. The Hawks are preparing for finals and will likely not go to extreme efforts to secure a large win on Saturday afternoon at the MCG, therefore this does create a small opportunity for the Blues at the +75.5 betting line. If this game were in the middle of the season there would not be any suggestion of taking the Blues +75.5, but given the scenario in which Hawthorn are likely to travel in a final next week they are unlikely to attack this game for four full quarters.

Sydney 15-6 v Gold Coast 4-1-16

The Swans just need a win to secure a Top 4 position on the AFL ladder, a loss would likely result in a missed opportunity of finishing Top 4 plus greatly diminish any chance of winning the premiership this year. Gold Coast have struggled to overcome a monumental injury list that would decimate any team in the AFL, a rare road win this week albeit unlikely would set them up for a positive 2016. Sydney have clicked in the last two weeks scoring 134.0pts average, they have conceded just 41.0pts average over the same period. Gold Coast has not won outside of their state this year, they are 0-9 in all travel games and start heavy underdogs where they have a 2-1-14 record. Again a small opportunity at a large line for the Suns at +52.5, Sydney may pack it in early with a handy lead knowing they will travel to Perth the following week.

West Coast 15-1-5 v St Kilda 6-1-14

West Coast need to win to secure second position on the AFL Ladder and a home Final vs most likely Hawthorn next week, after being slightly embarrassed by Adelaide last week expect a sharp & crisp Eagles team to hit the scoreboard as they have done for the most part of 2015. St Kilda appears to have hit the wall conceding 112.0pts from their last five games, they have won only one of their past 8 games which also includes a drawn game v Geelong. The Eagles are ranked second scoring 105.0pts per game in 2015, they have not lost to a bottom 10 team this year & lost only twice at Domain Stadium in Perth. Fully expect West Coast to give the -52.5 Betting Line a nudge at some stage, this could be a heavy defeat for the Saints.

Melbourne 6-15 v GWS Giants 11-10

Remarkably if GWS win this game they will finish on 12 wins for the 2015 H&A season which is likely beyond anyone’s expectation for them this year, they have a 9-3 record v bottom 10 teams this year & a solid 5-7 travel record for such a young team. Melbourne have been extremely disappointing in the last four weeks conceding 116.5pts Ave per game, scoring has been an issue for the Demons with an average of just 62.1pts FOR from their last nine games. Etihad Stadium is a fast track and will suit the Giants running style through the middle of the ground, a reminder that the last Melbourne win at this ground was back in R19 2007. In a round where there are multiple short-priced favourites, it is easy to be swayed towards Melbourne this week. Not expecting the upset in this game.

Collingwood 10-11 v Essendon 5-16

Collingwood responded last week with an emphatic victory over Geelong on Friday Night, although not a finals chance this year the Magpies seemed to have bottomed out and should improve next year with a likely finals appearance. Essendon has had another year dealing with ASADA & WADA, there would be no team more looking forward to this final game than the Bombers this Sunday. Collingwood should be able to secure their 11th win of the season, they were genuinely embarrassed two weeks ago and will still want further redemption this week. The Magpies have scored 100pts or more in nine of 21 games this year, the Bombers have conceded 115.2pts Ave in their last six games. A Magpies win will likely result in a clean sweep for all favourites this week, something that is very much likely.

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