The season continues to shock and surprise us, and some massive games await us this weekend - here's What To Watch For in Round 9.
Against all odds, the Dees can spring an upset
Everything points to a heavy Melbourne defeat when they return to the scene of their preliminary final horror show against West Coast at Optus Stadium on Friday night.
Despite scraping past the Suns in one of the most exciting finishes of recent seasons, the Demons are a shell of the team that made it to the penultimate weekend of the 2018 season, with a league-worst percentage and mounting injury issues -- Michael Hibberd and Jake Melksham are the most recent additions to a growing list of unavailabilities -- causing Simon Goodwin all sorts of headaches.
But there is some hope for the red and blue faithful. Firstly, the Eagles aren't exactly flying - in the past month, they've been spanked at home against Port, flogged against the Cats in Geelong and won two close games against Gold Coast (Optus Stadium) and St Kilda (Marvel Stadium). Hardly a fear-inducing form line.
Secondly, if Melbourne can turn Friday night's contest into a scrappy, stoppage-based game, they're every chance to expose a key West Coast weakness.
Melbourne have the fifth best contested possession differential, while the Eagles rank 17th, and the Dees also boast the fifth best groundball differential while West Coast sit last in that area.
The Demons also average the second most stoppages per game this year and have conceded the seventh fewest marks of any side, which means they could disrupt the Eagles' preferred possession-based gameplan.
This is two totally different game styles going against each other. If Melbourne can turn it into a scrap and deny West Coast easy uncontested marks, they are a big chance of causing an enormous upset and vanquishing the demons from their preliminary final capitulation.
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Who wins the 'Jekyll and Hyde' Cup?
Two of this season's most inconsistent sides clash this Saturday night at Marvel Stadium, and for Essendon, this truly is a must-win game if they're to stay in touch with the top eight.
The Bombers sit 13th with three wins and five losses, while the visiting Dockers are eighth with four win and four losses. This is a potential eight-point game and John Worsfold's men could even leapfrog Fremantle if an almighty spanking occurs.
Both sides aren't in the best form - Essendon will need to overcome a three game form slump while their opponents will be stinging following last week's shock 25-point home loss to the Tigers.
Fremantle, as we've come to expect in recent years, are one of the league's biggest Jekyll and Hyde teams - will the side that shocked the Giants in Canberra show up in Melbourne, or the team that lost to an undermanned and injured Richmond at home?
A loss for the Bombers could be disastrous for their September campaign and is one which Worsfold can barely afford considering the high expectations at the club over the past two seasons. The good news is, his side has a decent record against the Dockers under the roof; the Dons are 2-0 under Worsfold at the Docklands venue.
A Giant response from GWS
We're about to see what's more valuable in football: form or getting a real kick up the backside.
Greater Western Sydney produced arguably their worst performance in club history last Sunday against Hawthorn at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a venue they now have a shocking 2-14 record at. The Giants lacked pressure, intensity and effort for pretty much four full quarters against the understrength Hawks, eventually losing by 33 points.
Meanwhile, Carlton pushed premiership favourite Collingwood all the way in their last outing. The Blues actually led by 11 points late in the final term before the Pies kicked away in red time.
On Sunday afternoon the Giants host the Blues and it will be interesting to see how Leon Cameron's side responds from such a shocker. After all, Carlton lifted considerably after a putrid effort against North Melbourne the previous weekend.
Against the Hawks, raging Coleman Medal favourite Jeremy Cameron was held goalless for the first time since 2017 and will be eager to bounce back. He has a great track record against the Blues having booted 22 goals in just six games.
The midfield core of Stephen Coniglio, Josh Kelly, Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper all had relatively down games as well, at least compared to what we know they can do. If they all respond, it could get ugly at GIANTS Stadium, a ground the Blues have never won at in three attempts.