W2W4, Round 8: Magpies, Cats a top-four battle?

It was this time last year when Sydney finally broke their 2017 duck after a horror 0-6 start to the year.

The Swans have started much brighter this year but some serious question marks remain, despite some occasionally brilliant performances (see the Cats at Geelong in Round 6).

Their home form is worrying: Coming into the year, Sydney had won eight of their previous nine matches at the SCG but the Swans are 1-3 at home through seven rounds in 2017.

They sit inside the top 8, just, but at 4-3 and facing a resurgent Hawthorn (5-2) at the MCG on Friday night, a second consecutive loss could seriously dent their quest to finish in the top four.

That pivotal clash on Friday night kicks off another intriguing round of footy.

Here's What To Watch For in Round 8.

Winner of Cats-Pies a top four lock?

Yes, it's still early days in season 2018 but we're going out on a limb and saying the winner of Geelong and Collingwood on Sunday afternoon will be locked firmly inside the top four at the conclusion of the bye rounds.

Both sides possess a 4-3 record after inconsistent starts to the season - the Cats sit sixth on the ladder and the Pies ninth courtesy of a stronger percentage.

While there's no such thing as a dream or easy run in the AFL, both teams have favourable draws heading into the midpoint of the season. After this weekend, here's what Geelong's next five weeks looks like: Essendon (MCG), Carlton (GMHBA Stadium), Gold Coast (Metricon Stadium), Richmond (MCG) and then the bye.

Collingwood arguably have a kinder draw with games against St Kilda (Etihad Stadium), Western Bulldogs (Etihad Stadium), Fremantle (MCG), Melbourne (MCG) and Carlton (MCG) to follow.

Four points for either side could propel them into a lengthy winning streak and our eye is on the Magpies who since 2012 have a 6-3 record against the Cats.

Carlton's first win in 2018?

Carlton fans have been forced to be patient in the early parts of 2018, but there's a very real chance they could snag their first win for the year this weekend against bitter rivals Essendon.

The Bombers have been in woeful form in recent weeks, having lost their last three matches and all eight third quarters this year, while the Blues have shown enough glimpses against top-eight teams to have Essendon fans nervous.

As always, ladder position doesn't so much matter when these two duke it out; in Round 3 last year, the underdog Blues beat Essendon in the rain, while in 2016, the top-up Bombers shocked Carlton in the last round of the year.

The Blues are also set to regain key players in Charlie Curnow, Caleb Marchbank and Jacob Weitering (who amassed 17 marks in the VFL at the weekend), while skipper Marc Murphy could also be in line for a return from a foot injury.

To add to the Bombers' nerves, out-of-form spearhead Joe Daniher will miss after it was revealed he has been battling injury throughout the first seven rounds of the year.

Hope you remember the words to the song, Bluebaggers.

Can the Power finally claim bragging rights?

It has been a long, long time since Port supporters have been able to depart Adelaide Oval after a Showdown victory - the Power have lost five straight against their fierce crosstown rivals.

Saturday's much-anticipated contest gives them a chance not only to break a huge drought against the Crows, but also the chance to stand up as legitimate premiership contenders.

At 4-3, the Power are only one win behind the third-placed Crows but after only one win in the past four matches, the pressure is rising.

They went all-in during last year's trade period but none of Jack Watts, Tom Rockliff or Steven Motlop have performed as hoped, with inconsistency again proving to be Ken Hinkley's biggest problem.

Can they steady the ship? Showdowns are played in a notoriously intense atmosphere, so if the Power want to be viewed -- or want to view themselves -- as legitimate September prospects, they must find a way to finally beat the Crows.