AFL W2W4, R15: The Tigers at Etihad; Sunday's sneaky blockbuster

The bye weeks are finally behind us, meaning nine games will once again grace our screens from over a glorious four-day period.

The action starts with a bang on Thursday in an oddly-scheduled match between the Tigers and Swans, and concludes with a 'sneaky blockbuster' between Essendon and North Melbourne.

In between, some interesting match-ups will be worth keeping an eye on, including a clash between the out-of-form Crows and the faltering Eagles, as well as the Jeremy Cameron-less Giants and the surging Hawks.

Here's What To Watch For in Round 15.

How will the Tigers play Etihad Stadium?

A casual glance at the fixture will reveal Richmond hosts Sydney on Thursday night, but take a closer look at the finer details and there's something not quite right.

The Tigers, who have made a fortress out of the MCG in recent years -- having won their past 16 matches at the venue -- have been shunted to Etihad Stadium to play the Swans.

Make no bones about it, this is a massive game with huge implications. Currently sitting first and second on the ladder, a win for either side would bolster their chances of securing home ground advantage and a second chance in the finals.

So why is it an issue that Richmond are hosting the Swans at the Docklands venue? Just take a look at the Swans' recent form at the soon-to-renamed arena. Since 2012, the Swans have lost at Etihad Stadium just once and have won an astounding 12 times, while overall, the Swans boast the second-best win percentage at the venue, having been victorious 61.2 percent of the time.

For context, Geelong is the most successful club at Etihad Stadium, winning 67.9 percent of games there, while the next best interstate side is Adelaide with a comparatively-paltry 49.1 percent win record.

So it's little wonder Richmond's 90,000+ members might feel a little peeved about having to squeeze into a stadium which on a good day holds around 48,000 people, though we're sure there'd be a few Geelong fans telling their Richmond counterparts to suck it up.

Oh, and as for why the game is at Etihad? You can thank the controversial deal the stadium struck with the league requiring 45 matches to be hosted at the venue annually. Every MCG tenant (except Melbourne, who chose the Northern Territory) host at least one match at the venue each year.

How do the Giants cope without Jeremy Cameron?

If there was one player Greater Western Sydney could not afford to lose as they attempt to claw back into finals contention it was without a doubt Jeremy Cameron.

But the Giants better get used to their six-time leading goalkicker being absent after he was slapped with a five-game suspension for his ugly head-high hit on Brisbane defender Harris Andrews.

Leon Cameron's side faces a critical month of football and one that is almost certain to determine whether or not they play finals in 2018. Saturday night's match against Hawthorn is followed by tough clashes against West Coast (Perth Stadium), Richmond (Spotless Stadium) and Port Adelaide (Adelaide Oval).

Once again Cameron has been a focal point for GWS, kicking 35 goals from 12 games this season to sit second in the race for the Coleman Medal. The next best return from a Giant is just 12 goals from both Zac Langdon and Ryan Griffen, who find themselves equal 58th in the league for majors.

It may be a small sample size but the Giants struggled enormously in the only game Cameron missed this season. It came in Round 7 against Geelong where the Cats recorded a dominant 61-point win and restricted GWS to just 32 points -- their second lowest score in club history.

If the Giants are to cover the loss of Cameron, Jonathon Patton will have to step up in a big way. The big-bodied forward has booted just nine goals this season, well down on his average of two majors per game in 2017. With Rory Lobb and Toby Greene unlikely to return to the side anytime soon, the fate of the Giants could rest on Patton's shoulders.

Sunday's sneaky blockbuster

Cast your minds back six weeks when Essendon were sitting in the bottom four at 2-6, with their season -- and coaching panel -- in tatters and it's hard to believe they're still alive in 2018.

The Bombers, remarkably, sit just two wins outside the top eight, having won four of their past five including last Thursday's shock upset over West Coast in Perth.

On Sunday, Essendon are due to come up against another surprise packet in North Melbourne, who have also shocked the experts and pundits who predicted another long season of mediocrity. In fact, this time last year, the Roos were 17th on the ladder, without a hope and with only four wins to their name.

What this all culminates to on Sunday is what we're calling a 'sneaky blockbuster'. One, which as little as a month ago, would not have been regarded as must-watch television.

But as the old adage goes, football is indeed a funny game, and these two teams -- who have both won four of their past five -- will take to the ground on Sunday hell-bent on making a finals appearance in 2018 a reality.

North, to many, are the team likely to drop out of the top eight if a side in the bottom 10 is force its way in. Seen by many as overachievers, Brad Scott's men will need to fight off Essendon, GWS and the Hawks if they're to feature in September.

But the 12th-placed Essendon pose a risk to North. The Bombers are a chop-you-up outfit who run-and-gun at any opportunity. We saw the devastating effects of their successful gameplan in a dazzling 40-minute spell last week.

Will the Roos -- who pride themselves on being a contested footy team -- be able to brave the onslaught?