1. Buddy is the key player in this year's finals series
The Sydney Swans' premiership rivals got a look at both fearsome sides of Lance Franklin on Saturday night. They saw the marking forward, who was a handful in the air, quick on the lead and accurate in front of goal, kicking 6.1. But they also saw an extra midfielder capable of racking up a massive 15 possessions in a quarter and turning a game. Franklin hasn't played a final since 2014 and will be desperate to reassert himself on the biggest stage. What was clear from Saturday night's 70-point win over St Kilda is that the Swans – who deserve to be premiership favourites – don't plan on using him in one role. - Nathan Schmook

WATCH: Buddy torches the Saints

2. North needs best players back to be finals threat
After unforgivably giving the Hawks a 48-point headstart, North Melbourne was brave for much of the next two and a half quarters. The Roos cut the Hawks' lead to 13 points midway through the third quarter, and had opportunities to get even closer. Ultimately, the team North fielded on Saturday at the MCG did not have the class to run the Hawks down. And if the Roos are going to do any damage this September they are going to need most – if not all – of Jarrad Waite (hip), Ben Brown (knee), Scott Thompson (groin), Shaun Higgins (knee), Mason Wood (knee), Sam Wright (ankle), Luke McDonald (hamstring) and Ben Jacobs (foot) back from injury – and at or near their best pretty quickly. It seems a big ask. - Nick Bowen

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3. Melbourne's trip to Geelong in round 23 promises to be a beauty
The Demons are timing their finals run to perfection and would be the feel-good story if they could overhaul North Melbourne and sneak into the top eight. The Demons have won three games in a row for the first time in Paul Roos' tenure at the club. If they can beat Carlton next week – which you would back them to do – and North loses to the Sydney Swans, the Demons will travel to Simonds Stadium on Saturday, August 27 with it all to play for. Win that, and all the pressure is on the Kangaroos to knock off Greater Western Sydney at Etihad Stadium that night. The Demons are playing an exciting brand of football and showed that even with quiet games from Jack Viney, Jesse Hogan and Jack Watts, they have more than enough contributors across the ground. - Lee Gaskin

4. The Eagles showed they're much more than 'flat-track bullies' 
Much has been made of West Coast's struggles away from home, but they've beaten Port Adelaide, the Brisbane Lions and Carlton on the road this year, and while those three teams are hardly world-beaters, Greater Western Sydney is a major scalp. The visitors fought back from 23 points down at three-quarter time after GWS had kicked five straight heading to the last change, and grabbed a massive win with a monstrous last term. Led by the underrated Luke Shuey, who had 14 of his game-high 38 possessions, six clearances and booted two goals, West Coast kicked six goals to two in the last quarter to secure a vital four points. They've copped plenty about their travel troubles and most of it has been justified, but the fact that the Eagles snatched such an important victory after still trailing with eight seconds left on the clock says a lot about the character of Adam Simpson's men. - Adam Curley

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5. Marcus Bontempelli can win the Brownlow Medal
The 20-year-old has been in a rich vein of form nearly all of the season and should again be in the umpires' votes in the Bulldogs' three-point win over Collingwood on Friday night. Bontempelli, the No.4 NAB AFL Draft Pick from 2013, had 26 disposals, kicked two goals and stood up when his team needed him with a 12-disposal third term. Bontempelli has been huge all year, he has a presence around the stoppages where the umpires are most, and he has proved himself to be one of the young matchwinners across the league. Patrick Dangerfield and Dustin Martin are the raging favourites for the Brownlow but 'The Bont' will surely poll well. And if he doesn't win it this year, we already like his odds for 2017. - Callum Twomey

6. Captaincy suits Zach Merrett
At just 20 years of age, the classy midfielder became the third-youngest player in Essendon's long and proud history to skipper the club. It's been a trying year for the Bombers and someone as youthful as Merrett could have been excused for wilting without the support of more experienced teammates, but Merrett has thrived with the increased responsibility. On Sunday, he was asked to lead the team, and once again he delivered. He collected 38 disposals, and his classy left foot stood out in a game marred by skill errors. It was a superb display from the man likely to win his first best and fairest. - Dinny Navaratnam

7. The Cats can't decide who they are
Despite escaping with the four points against Richmond, the Cats remains a Jekyll and Hyde proposition. At their best, they can be as devastating as their six-goal last quarter showed but at their worst, they can be close to embarrassing, fumbling and wasting opportunities to score. They have beaten all the top eight sides except the Sydney Swans and lost to three teams outside the eight. If they can survive the final two rounds, the draw might open up for them in the finals. - Peter Ryan

8. Fremantle's ball movement has regressed
The Dockers made kicking skills, ball movement, transition and spread the main priority this season and worked tirelessly over the pre-season and the season proper. But instead of progressing towards the end of the year the Dockers are seemingly going backwards in these areas. The Dockers gave up 13 goals from turnovers against West Coast last week and they were even worse against the Crows on Sunday. The players seem bereft of confidence with ball in hand, both unsure of their decisions and unsteady in their execution. How they fix it over the next pre-season is one of Ross Lyon's many challenges. - Alex Malcolm 

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9. The Lions have some genuine competition for their tall forward spots
In an area of the ground that has haunted the club since late in Jonathan Brown's decorated career, the Lions have unearthed some exciting prospects this season. First-round draft picks Josh Schache – now on ice for the year after carrying a huge workload – and Eric Hipwood have provided more than could have been hoped for. Recruited Cat Josh Walker (18 goals in 13 games) has been serviceable off limited supply, and against Carlton, it was Michael Close's turn to step up with four goals. Close ruptured his ACL in round two last season and took much of this year to regain his confidence back through the NEAFL. Saturday was just his second senior outing for the season, and the 22-year-old showed strong hands and a nice set shot to put his name well and truly in the frame for a regular berth in 2017. - Michael Whiting