Crows looking to fly higher
Adelaide goes to Skilled Stadium on Saturday hoping to take advantage of Geelong's new-found vulnerability and score a significant victory, writes Andy Morris.
The Crows are one of four teams boasting an 11-6 record, and are in fifth on percentage so every win is crucial.
They know not only are Geelong still looking to rediscover top form but they are suffering injury problems - key defenders Matthew Scarlett and Harry Taylor are the latest to join the list.
The Crows hope veteran Tyson Edwards and youngster Andy Otten will pass fitness tests. They have won seven of their last eight games, including a comfortable victory in last weekend's Showdown.
However, Geelong has beaten Adelaide at Skilled Stadium 10 times out of the last 13, and averages a 50-point winning margin against the Crows in their last three head-to-head clashes. So the wise money is on the Cats in match odds betting.
Fresh from their excellent victory over the Western Bulldogs, ladder-leading St Kilda should be backed in match odds betting against Sydney at the SCG.
They beat the Swans by 15 points in round one this year, before they hit anything like full stride, and 17 weeks later they find themselves two games clear of Geelong.
Although St Kilda has only won once in nine trips to the SCG, the Swans are in the midst of a disappointing season in which they will likely fail to reach the finals, while the Saints look a formidable force.
In top form at the moment are Collingwood, who tackle Brisbane at the MCG seeking a ninth win in 10 rounds.
They were superb last time out against Carlton, whilst the Lions go to the home of football knowing they have to improve on a record that has seen them win just two of their past eight games there.
Brisbane will rely on the in-form Jonathan Brown, who leads the Coleman medal battle with 63 following his eight-goal display last time out. It might be close, but the safer bet is to back the Pies in match odds betting.
The absence of star forward pair Shaun Higgins and Robert Murphy could hurt Western Bulldogs as they prepare to face Fremantle.
With Daniel Giansiracusa also out, the Bulldogs will hope several others will pass fitness tests as they bid to win their ninth game in 12.
Fremantle's spirits were lifted by a win over the West Coast Eagles, but their chances of causing an upset here are slim. The Bulldogs only look vulnerable against fellow high-fliers and have been putting struggling sides like Fremantle to the sword this season, so back them in match odds betting.
Essendon should come good against the West Coast Eagles, despite going into the game with a poor recent record - they have lost three of their last four including last weekend's defeat to the Tigers.
However, they still have time to re-gather themselves for a push to the finals and currently lie eighth on the ladder so they deserve to be favourites against a West Coast side that were extremely disappointing in losing to last-placed Fremantle last time out.
Take Essendon in match odds betting in this one, and hope they can get back to something like top form.
To show how fortunes have changed in 2009, consider that the Kangaroos beat Carlton by 51 points in round 20 last year.
Now, if you take excuse Carlton's loss to Collingwood as a bad day at the office, they start as warm favourites against a North Melbourne side that has lost seven of its last eight games.
Carlton had won three straight before a disappointing display against the Magpies, and should be capable of bouncing back against the Kangaroos even on the occasion of Adam Simpson's farewell for North Melbourne.
With some degree of confidence, back Carlton to win this one in match odds betting.
Another turn-around in fortunes should be in evident when Port Adelaide tackles Hawthorn at AAMI Stadium. The Power beat the Hawks by 30 points in round four this year, but they have struggled since while Hawthorn have found some self-belief.
Last weekend's 70-point loss to their cross-town rivals will have dented Port Adelaide's confidence, while Hawthorn will hopefully have used their one-point loss to Geelong as a sign of how much they have improved over the course of the season - they are now seriously challenging for a place in the top eight.
The biggest concern for the Power will be their failure to sustain any intensity for four quarters, while Hawthorn should be able to do just that with so much to play for, and can be backed in match odds betting.
Melbourne's first victory of the season came at Richmond's expense in round four, an eight-point success that it's hard to see them repeating.
The Tigers were sensational in beating Essendon last time out, and have won two and drawn one of the six games since Jade Rawlings was installed as caretaker coach.
Melbourne has improved its fortunes of late, with successive wins over West Coast and Port Adelaide followed by decent performances in defeat to Geelong and Sydney.
However, Melbourne still has too many players on the injured list and that means the wise money is on Richmond in match odds betting.