Without entering into the possible permutations four teams have a chance of securing the last two places available in the AFL play-offs.
The Magpies, currently sixth on 38 points, ensured their place when with Jordan de Goey and Mason Cox firing in attack they defeated Gold Coast on Monday night.
St Kilda, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney are vying for the other two spots with the Saints and Bulldogs each having 36 points while Melbourne and G.W.S. have 32 points.
Depending on other results victories in the last round could lead to anyone of those teams reaching the finals but obviously if St Kilda and the Bulldogs are victorious they will be safe.
Analyses suggests that the Saints, with a percentage of 111.4, is already relatively sure of being a finalist even if beaten by G.W.S.
Some doubt also remains at the head of the ladder.
Port Adelaide and Brisbane are well and truly secure in first and second places.
That leaves Richmond, Geelong and West Coast still striving to finish in the top four, which outcomes from previous seasons have demonstrated is vital to prospects of a premiership.
Richmond, with 46 points from 11 wins and a draw, has the edge over Geelong and West Coast with 11 wins each.
Besides Geelong has a very healthy percentage of 138.9 against West Coast’s 116.0 so the odds are against the Eagles.
Interestingly Richmond, Geelong and West Coast will go into their Round 18 matches as short priced favourites.
The Eagles go up against the lowly North Melbourne at Metricon Stadium on Thursday night; the Tigers meet an admittedly improving Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on Saturday afternoon and Geelong plays the gutsy Sydney at Metricon on Sunday afternoon.
On that basis the status quo should remain.
Two “losers” – St Kilda and G.W.S. – in the finals race clash at The Gabba on Friday night.
After an early season surge the Saints have been disappointing with four losses in their last six games.
Admittedly those were by narrow margins to Brisbane and Melbourne but St Kilda’s performance was lack lustre in going down by 15 points to West Coast in Round 17.
In fact the Saints only played with any cohesion in the seven or eight minutes after the opening bounce and for seven or eight minutes at the start of the last quarter.
For the rest of the match their players dropped simple mark after simple mark, handballed poorly and repeatedly failed to pick up or handle the ball with any skill or assurance.
Against that although G.W.S. has a more talented side but the downside is that the Giants apart from a few – including the “clumsy” veteran ruckman Shane Mumford and Toby Greene – appear to lack a desperate will-to-win.
That was again evident when the Giants went down by five points to Melbourne, when success would have virtually clinched a finals berth.
Amazingly the Western Bulldogs, presently in eighth, can produce a repeat of last season when they finished in a rush to reach the finals and then a qualifying final.
The Bullies were convincing 36-point winners against Hawthorn last week and go into a “should win” match against Fremantle at Cazaly’s Stadium on Sunday evening.
After downing the Giants the Demons should have confidence in the likelihood of a win over Essendon at Metricon on Saturday afternoon to keep their finals prospects alive.
The home-and-away matches end with a headline encounter between league leaders Port Adelaide and Collingwood at The Gabba on Monday night.
There can be no doubt about the endeavour of the injury-troubled Collingwood players but throughout the season Port Adelaide has been under-rated by most.
Power has registered 13 wins and have a percentage of 136.4 – second only to Geelong – so they will certainly be difficult for Collingwood to overcome.
Last Week Tipped: 3
West Coast by 32pts
St. Kilda by 6pts
Melbourne by 16pts
Richmond by 18pts
Brisbane by 10pts
Hawthorn by 25pts
Geelong by 19pts
Western Bulldogs by 23pts
Port Adelaide by 14pts