AFL Power Rankings: Even the race for the wooden spoon is tight

Should floating fixtures be used permanently in the AFL? (0:25)

The ESPN Footy Podcast team debate the merits of a floating fixture, and if it should remain in a post-pandemic footy world. (0:25)

In this week's edition of ESPN's AFL Power Rankings, there's more movement up the top after the Bulldogs beat the Demons, but there's an interesting race developing at the other end of the rankings...

Note: Throughout the year, ESPN will rank all 18 teams, from top to bottom, taking into account which teams are playing the best footy, injuries, each team's recent opponents, and which teams are looking most like flag contenders.

Previous rankings (prior to): Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Round 5 | Round 6 | Round 7 | Round 8 | Round 9 | Round 10 | Round 11 | Round 12 | POST BYE | Round 15 | Round 16 | Round 17 | Round 18 | Round 19

1. Geelong
2021 record: 14-4
Previous ranking: 1

The Cats are purring, and at the right time of the year. A win over the Tigers just reaffirms they're going to be there in the last couple of weeks of the finals, and with a matchup against the Kangaroos looming, could take top spot on the ladder with a big enough win.

This week's opponent: North Melbourne (Blundstone Arena)

2. Western Bulldogs
2021 record: 14-4
Previous ranking: 3

Top of the ladder, but second on the Power Rankings, the Bulldogs are probably second favourite for the flag right now. A win over the Demons is exactly the sort of test they'd want to pass with September just around the corner, and pass they did - in flying colours. They've a chance to consolidate top spot on the ladder this week.

This week's opponent: Adelaide (Mars Stadium)


Dunkley details cafe COVID scare

Western Bulldogs midfielder Josh Dunkley tells the ESPN Footy Podcast that bad luck is to blame for having to isolate for 14 days due to coming into contact with a COVID-positive case.

3. Melbourne
2021 record: 13-4-1
Previous ranking: 2

It seems more obvious now that Melbourne are perhaps just that one rung below the Cats and Bulldogs. Having said that, they look to be comfortably the third best team in it right now, and when they play their best footy, they're tough to beat. As always, it's their forward line which has the biggest question mark hanging over it.

This week's opponent: Gold Coast (Metricon Stadium)

4. Sydney
2021 record: 12-6
Previous ranking: 4

They've progressed from finals smokey to a decent flag chance in the space of just a few months, and the Swans don't seem like slowing down. They're comfortably accounting for teams like Fremantle, and can match it with the best when needed. And with Buddy to suit up against the Bombers, they're odds on again to win this week.

This week's opponent: Essendon (Gabba)


Footy's weird quirks we've accepted as normal

After Geelong coach Chris Scott tripped over a fan, the ESPN Footy Podcast team discusses what 'footyisms' would seem strange to people watching for the first time.

5. Brisbane
2021 record: 12-6
Previous ranking: 5

What a blistering second half from the Lions against the Suns - it just reminded us all of what they're capable of when they're on and firing. Have they solved their forward issues? Probably not for the long term, but there's plenty to work with heading into the last few games before finals.

This week's opponent: Hawthorn (UTAS Stadium)

6. Port Adelaide
2021 record: 13-5
Previous ranking: 6

Port just keep ticking the boxes they need to tick ahead of September action. They're consistently beating the teams below them, which is what they need to do to ensure they get a home final - or a fairytale top four finish.

This week's opponent: GWS (Metricon Stadium*)

7. West Coast
2021 record: 10-8
Previous ranking: 10

Finals looked in serious doubt for this side a month ago, but to their credit, they've put some solid performances in to look a lot more likely given their two-game lead on the next best team. A clash at the MCG looms, and if they're serious about making a dent in the finals (especially if there ends up being a hub in Perth!), then this should be an easy four points.

This week's opponent: Collingwood (MCG)

8. Richmond
2021 record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 7

The Tigers are one of four teams with eight wins, and their percentage is thereabouts as well, meaning they're still a shot at sewing up eighth spot. This week's opponent also has eight wins but have been inconsistent - Freo in Perth is the task ahead of this side, who would really like to stay in the hunt.

This week's opponent: Fremantle (Optus Stadium)

9. St Kilda
2021 record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 9

It was an admirable effort from the Saints against the Eagles in the west, and it was a game that had many positives - not least of all the arrival of Max King. They face the struggling Blues this week - lose that and it's season over. Let's see if the Saints have one last effort in them.

This week's opponent: Carlton (Marvel Stadium)

10. Essendon
2021 record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 8

That loss to the Giants hurts the Bombers, but they aren't out of the race just yet. They have an impressive percentage (the best of the four teams on eight wins) but face a tough task in Sydney ... again on the road.

This week's opponent: Sydney (Gabba)

11. GWS
2021 record: 8-9-1
Previous ranking: 12

They're in eighth spot on the ladder, but their rank inconsistency makes it hard to think they're going to hold onto that spot, especially given this week's opponent. The Giants have been hopping around Australia, too, which must be tough on a playing group while many other teams get to operate from home.

This week's opponent: Port Adelaide (Metricon Stadium*)

12. Fremantle
2021 record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 11

We're not sure many had Fremantle beating Sydney away from Perth, but it was probably a little more disappointing than what fans would have hoped for. Finals are still a live chance, but they'll need to beat Richmond at Optus Stadium this week. It's a long shot, but maybe those grouse Retro Round jumpers will work their magic?

This week's opponent: Richmond (Optus Stadium)

13. Carlton
2021 record: 7-11
Previous ranking: 13

Fourth straight week at 13th on the Power Rankings for the Blues, who are clearly not as good as the teams higher on the ladder, but a slight class above the teams below them. Losing to the Kangaroos is tough to swallow for fans in particular, but they have next to no talls available to be picked, which isn't helping.

This week's opponent: St Kilda (Marvel Stadium)


Is this Libba's dead ringer?

The ESPN Footy podcast team has been getting around the Euros this year, and Matt Walsh reckons one Italian defender looks eerily like Bulldogs mid Tom Liberatore.

14. Gold Coast Suns
2021 record: 6-12
Previous ranking: 14

The Suns produced a really solid first half against the Lions but fell away (well, got smashed, really), in the second half. Still, they're competitive, and have surpassed their 2020 win tally of five with a few games to go.

This week's opponent: Melbourne (Metricon Stadium)

15. Adelaide
2021 record: 6-12
Previous ranking: 16

A relieving win for the Crows, who secured the season double against the Hawks last week. They've shown noticeable improvement compared to last season, and have now doubled their 2020 win tally.

This week's opponent: Western Bulldogs (Mars Stadium)

16. Collingwood
2021 record: 5-13
Previous ranking: 15

Another loss for the Pies, whose on-field performance is somehow not as bad as what's going on off the field... A bottom four finish is looking likely, and fans want to see a glimpse of something before the season is out. Can they jag a win over the Eagles at the MCG? We won't hold our breath.

This week's opponent: West Coast (MCG)

17. North Melbourne
2021 record: 4-13-1
Previous ranking: 17

We said last week that North was showing plenty, and their win over Carlton at the weekend was just reward for great effort. They're by far one of the better teams to be on the bottom of the ladder this late in a season, and are now within percentage of 17th spot!

This week's opponent: Geelong (Blundstone Arena)

18. Hawthorn
2021 record: 4-13-1
Previous ranking: 17

The Hawks got done by the Crows, which sees them back on the bottom of the Rankings after North's impressive win over Carlton. The Kangaroos are now in striking distance of 17th spot on the ladder, too, which means the Hawks might need to find a result in order to ensure they don't finish on the bottom!

This week's opponent: Brisbane (UTAS Stadium)