It's been that sort of year for the Eagles.
Who’ll claim the four points in each of this weekend’s nine matches?
Let’s preview them all.
ELO-Following Football ratings: 71.2 (2nd) v 70.4 (3rd)
Current PlayUp line: Brisbane by 5.5.
The game of the weekend, one presumes. So by my thinking, it should be played on Friday night, not Thursday. General stats are fairly even; Geelong has a six-game winning streak, while Brisbane has won eight games in a row not involving the Demons.
If the bizarre lose-win streak following the bye has indeed been broken for Geelong over the last two years, and they won last week, that puts the Cats in danger of losing this week as they did in the comparable fixture in 2020. With home ground advantage, Brisbane is indeed a slight favourite in the ELO-Following Football rating system by four points.
But Geelong is the only club more consistent that the Lions: over their last eight games, they have produced above-average game-day performances (as measured by “Blast Ratings”), their last two being 88.8 and 79.3 (these ratings are interpreted the same way as normal mean-of-50 ELO-FF ratings are).
Meanwhile, the last two Blast Ratings for Brisbane were merely 57.2 (v Melbourne) and 42.4 (v North). In a close match-up, with Geelong the hotter team, I’m taking the visitors to win outright (which currently pays $4.44 on a hypothetical two-dollar wager).
ELO-FF ratings: 36.2 (14th) v 62.8 (6th)
Current PlayUp line: Richmond by 26.5.
One would hope, given the Saints’ failures this season, that Richmond would find a way to put some points between themselves and their opponents on Friday night.
While the Tigers’ ratings make the ELO-FF point spread about the same (we have it at 28.5), the Blast ratings since Richmond was run out of the park by Geelong in Round 8 make it clear that they’re playing better than St Kilda. In fact, since Round 9, there hasn’t been a weekend that the Saints’ one-game Blast rating wasn’t at least 28.5 points worse than Richmond’s. The Tigers should cover this spread.
ELO-FF ratings: 44.8 (11th) v 45.6 (10th)
Current PlayUp line: Collingwood by 5.5.
Expect new coach syndrome to lift the Magpies to a win over Fremantle. While the Dockers’ home-away results are nowhere near as drastic as their stadium-mates, not playing this game at Optus Stadium makes the Magpies the favourite anyway. The recent history of AFL teams changing senior coaches is that it adds a temporary burst of about a goal, goal-and-a-half for the invigoration of the players and staff. Given that, let’s pick the Pies by 13 points, which means “win and cover” ($3.80 for $2).
ELO-FF ratings: 34.1 (16th) v 21.0 (18th)
Current PlayUp line: Kangaroos by 6.5
This will be an interesting contest. While Gold Coast are ostensibly ahead of the Kangaroos in its rebuild (assuming the Suns were ever ‘built’ prior to this), they show signs of their annual late-season swoon being in full swing with two straight poor showings after the bye (Blast Ratings of 13.1 and 7.1 the last two weeks).
North have had two positive outings in Tasmania (Blast Ratings of 46.6 and 49.0 since their bye). Also of interest: will there be more of an audience of Hobart footy fans for a more competitive contest than there was a week ago for a more hastily arranged contest for its ‘home team’ against a far superior opponent?
I don’t pretend to know the internal politics of the island state, but from distance it’s curious to watch both Tasmanian sites used by the league as a release valve at its pleasure without serious thought being given to something more substantive and long term. Fill in “Northern Territory” for a similar if less defensible argument.
Strictly speaking, the ELO-Following Football numbers recommend picking the Suns; the three game Tasmanian-streak for the Roos plus their superior recent ratings make us choose them to win outright. And if you’re saying, “win outright”, a four-point spread isn’t worth fiddling over. Kangas to win and cover. (“Win” = $3.46 for two dollars. “Cover” = $3.80. You pick.)
ELO-FF ratings: 44.2 (12th) v 64.0 (5th)
Current PlayUp line: Port by 20.5.
For teams sitting fifth and sixth on the ladder, the storylines are vastly different and it shows in the ratings and percentages.
Port is fighting for a top four slot, and the Swans are simply trying to stay in the top eight at season’s end after a bottom four ending last season. Were it not for Hawthorn’s massive upset last game, the Swans would have come into this in a flat-footed tie with the Power, showing the deceptive nature of record alone. The ELO-FF ratings say Port by 24, so we’re taking them to win and cover ($3.80).
ELO-FF ratings: 69.4 (4th) v 49.4 (9th)
Current PlayUp line: Melbourne by 23.5.
Melbourne happened to hit just the wrong time to play Collingwood – the Magpies’ Blast rating of 90.6 last Monday was the best of Round 13. Fortunately for them, Gary Rohan kept the Doggies a game behind them with his after the siren goal on Friday night, and they get a more conventional game this round against Essendon.
The Demons’ back line will do a better job of controlling Jake Stringer than Hawthorn did on Sunday, and shouldn’t have any trouble adding four premiership points to their league-leading total. The numbers say about the same as PlayUp’s do (having the line at four goals straight), so let’s take the tri-bet option: Melbourne to win by more than 15 points, which currently pays $3.20 on two dollars. Better than just “win”, more certain than the over.
ELO-FF ratings: 30.4 (17th) v 50.6 (8th)
Current PlayUp line: Giants by 6.5.
What role does progress play in comparison to potential when it comes to motivation? The Hawks had a tremendous game against Sydney in Round 13 and gave Essendon all they could handle Sunday in Launceston. However, with just three wins in 13 outings, they hold no chance of making finals in 2021.
The Giants, by contrast, are in the thick of the race for the top eight, although last week’s win was their first decent game since Round 10 (Blast Ratings of 18.6 and 16.2 from the games on either side of their bye), with injuries playing a significant part in those performances.
But it’s almost impossible to go past the Big Big Sound in this one, even if you rely on those mysterious Blast ratings of ours: Hawthorn’s outlier upset at Sydney was the only game over 56 all season, and the only one over 40 since Round 3. Meanwhile, the Giants actual rating overshadows that at 50.6.
The ELO-FF ratings take GWS by 27; since the line is only 22.5, let’s hold our breath a little and take them to both win and cover ($3.80). Alternately, you could take the tri-bet and take GWS over 15 for about $3.
ELO-FF ratings: 74.1 (1st) v 55.7 (7th)
Current PlayUp line: West Coast by 2.5.
A rematch of a tremendous game at Marvel Stadium during Round 2, won by the Dogs 100-93. Since then, Footscray’s had a nice solid season, led by potential Brownlow medalist Marcus Bontempelli and potential top-five Jack Macrae.
Meanwhile, the Eagles are struggling with their usual firkin of injuries, exacerbated by constant cross-continental travel. At home, the operational rating for West Coast is more like 67.7, which puts them in competitive range of the Bulldogs, but we still like the Dogs by a goal.
Since the oddsmakers don’t, we’re taking the Bulldogs to win outright.
ELO-FF ratings: 34.9 (15th) v 41.2 (13th)
Current PlayUp line: Carlton by 10.5.
One of the most reliable markers for a team to show significant improvement the next year is to have a percentage that is higher than expected for its record. For a four-win team at this stage to possess a percentage over 90 indicates that Carlton is a better team than their record indicates, and the ELO-FF ratings would seem to indicate that advantage over the Crows as well.
But the Blast Ratings tell a different story, and that story matches the eyes of those watching the Blues closely already (as indicated by their need for a full review in the middle of the season). Here are the one-game Blast Ratings for the last seven games Carlton has played; see if you spot the trend:
61.8 – 58.0 – 40.6 – 47.5 – 34.0 – 20.1 – 11.4.
Not even the week off seems to have quelled the freefall David Teague’s team has undergone. In a more macro sense, Carlton’s three partial seasons under Teague have gone 6-5 (55 per cent), 7-10 (41 per cent), and 4-9 (31 per cent); eerily similar.
Adelaide haven’t set the world on fire, but at least their last five games have all had Blast ratings above 30, their Round 10 upset of the league leaders standing out among those. Coming straight from their off week will help the Crows, too.
While the ELO-FF ratings alone also spot Carlton an eight-point lead, it’s hard to watch the recent forms and think that the Blues are the better team. We’re taking Adelaide for the win.