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The race is on: Which teams are best-placed to make the eight?

60 points 132.6%

RUN HOME: Giants (H), St Kilda (H), Melbourne (H)

WE SAY: With their final three matches at GMHBA Stadium, the Cats have all but secured a top-four spot already. It’s been an incredible season and if you take away their round 15 brain fade against Brisbane, the Cats’ last loss came at the start of May. Chris Scott’s biggest challenge heading towards September will be team selection. Jeremy Cameron and Mitch Duncan will be automatic selections when they return from injury in the next month, but who will make way? Shaun Higgins now appears to have confirmed his spot in the Cats’ best 23.

3. MELBOURNE

58 points 131.5%

RUN HOME: West Coast (A), Adelaide (H), Geelong (A)

WE SAY: Simon Goodwin’s quest to find the Demons’ most efficient forward line has been well documented, but he must now do it during a pretty difficult lead in to the finals. The Demons made a statement by demolishing the Suns on Sunday but a trip to Perth to face the Eagles will be a challenge, although the Eagles are no longer the force they once were. Clayton Oliver recently said that his side lifts for the big occasions . They’re going to need to in order to secure that vital double chance.

Melbourne star Christian Petracca.

Melbourne star Christian Petracca.Credit:AFL Photos

4. PORT ADELAIDE

56 points 121.8%

RUN HOME: Adelaide (A), Carlton (H), Western Bulldogs (A)

WE SAY: As we build towards September, the Power are one of the more difficult clubs to read. No one seems to be talking about them as a genuine premiership threat, but they’ve won eight of their last 10 – including a fighting effort against the Giants on Sunday – and their next two games are winnable. If they can win those and get valuable game time into Connor Rozee, Xavier Duursma and Zak Butters, the Power may be able to recapture the form that made them preliminary finalists 12 months ago.

5. SYDNEY

52 points 118.0%

RUN HOME: St Kilda (A), North Melbourne (A), Gold Coast (H)

WE SAY: Yes, the Swans are the story of the season so far. But you know what? They’re not here to make up the numbers. In fact, they can push for a top four spot for they are clear favourites to win their remaining three matches and head into September on an eight-game winning streak. Four of their past five wins have been against top eight sides, while Essendon were knocking on the door heading into Sunday’s shootout at the MCG. Lance Franklin is closing in on 1000 goals and the Swans are getting closer to one of their most remarkable seasons in recent times.

6. BRISBANE LIONS

48 points 124.6%

RUN HOME: Fremantle (A), Collingwood (H), West Coast (H)

WE SAY: The Lions are fading, and coach Chris Fagan isn’t happy. A top four spot no longer appears possible. They are beginning matches poorly, as again was the case in a surprise loss to Hawthorn on Sunday, and injuries appear to be taking a toll. Now comes a run home against the spirited Dockers and the attacking Magpies before a final round clash with West Coast. Much will depend on Joe Daniher and Charlie Cameron.

36 pts 90.9%

RUN HOME: Brisbane (H), West Coast (H), St Kilda (A)

WE SAY: They surprised many by toppling Richmond, despite the absence of Nat Fyfe and Michael Walters. Andrew Brayshaw has been superb and shapes as a future captain, while Adam Cerra was pivotal against the Tigers. The Lions are smarting but the Dockers are now favourites. Win that, and then topple the Eagles, and eighth spot is there for the taking.

9. GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY

34 pts 95.1%

RUN HOME: Geelong (A), Richmond (H), Carlton (A)

WE SAY: It’s hard to work out the Giants. Their win over the Bombers had them well-placed to make the top eight but the loss to the Power on Sunday has sparked more questions. The trip to Geelong this week is a tough ask but they should knock off the Tigers next week. Then comes the Blues, who are back in the finals hunt. Match-winner Toby Greene needs to provide something special.

10. ESSENDON

32 pts 102.7%

RUN HOME: Western Bulldogs (A), Gold Coast (A), Collingwood (H)

WE SAY: The Bombers have made significant progress this season but a return to the finals in Ben Rutten’s first season as coach may be a step too far. The shootout loss, including an interchange bungle, to the Swans stings, and they must now regroup to face the Bulldogs, who are among the hottest teams. There should be a win over the Suns, but the Magpies have hit form. They need Darcy Parish, Dylan Shiel, Jake Stringer and Zach Merrett to produce something special.

Zach Merrett and Jake Stringer have been pivotal for the Bombers this season.

Zach Merrett and Jake Stringer have been pivotal for the Bombers this season.Credit:AFL Photos

11. RICHMOND

32 pts 98.0%

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