Twenty-three weeks of footy is over and the AFL's binary division has begun, with the sixteen teams now cleaved in two.
Let's take a look at how the finalists have performed when they've met one of their own.
They finished atop the ladder after overcoming what turned out to be the toughest draw amongst the finalists. In 12 of the home-and-away season's 22 rounds the Pies met another team from the top 8 - that's only two fewer than a maximum possible 14, and at least one more than every other team.
The Pies won 75% of these encounters and outscored their competitors by 28% in them, winning each contest by an average of almost four goals. As well, they recorded the best 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarter performances of all the finalists, blemishing their record only with a relatively poor 5 and 7 performance in final terms, ranking them 4th.
One other concern for Pies fans - aside from their alleged Collywobbledom - will be their scoring shot conversion rate (aka their ability to kick straight). At just 48.9%, their conversion rate is the poorest amongst the eight finalists. They've got away with this wastefulness by generating so many more scoring shots than their opponents - 30.2 per game, which is almost 3 shots per game more than Geelong, who are next best, and is at least 5 shots per game better than any other finalist.
The Cats played other finalists 11 times this season, winning seven and losing four. Four of these contests took place in Rounds 18 to 21, during which Geelong went 3 and 1, which surely must have provided some level of confidence going into the season's main games.
In these 11 contests the Cats outscored their opponents by almost 25%, scoring about 20 points more than their rivals in each game. They've generated over 27 scoring shots per game but converted these at a relatively poor 54.5%, and conceded 24.5 scoring shots per game, which they've allowed their opponents to convert into goals at an impressively miserly rate of just 46.7% - the lowest amongst the finalists.
They've been strong across every quarter, though they have struggled on some occasions to generate points in the first term where, despite winning 64% of these quarters, overall they've actually been narrowly outscored by their opponents.
If you're a Saints fan, you've reasons to worry.
They met fellow-finalists on only nine occasions this season - the fewest of any finalist - and met none in the last five rounds. Perhaps more worrying is the fact that they've recorded a loss and a draw in their last two encounters with top 8 teams, meaning that they've not beaten a finalist since Round 14.
Still, their early season form against the main contenders was strong - so strong in fact that, overall, they have the second best win-loss record of all eight teams in the finals.
I've noted before how much trouble the Saints have had scoring points and this affliction is very much in evidence in their performances against the other finalists. In these games the Saints have managed to score only 76 points per game, comfortably the worst performance of any of the teams. Their scoring deficiency has two causes: few scoring shots per game (21.0, also the worst amongst the finalists) and poor conversion (52.4%, better only than the Pies).
What's kept them in the hunt has been their defence. They've allowed just 21.3 scoring shots per game, which ranks them 1st on this statistic, and permitted their opponents to convert these scant opportunities at a rate of just 52.6%, which ranks them 3rd.
They've been slow starters in games against finalists, winning only one-third of 1st and 2nd terms while being outscored by 10-15% in each. Their second halves have been better, though not spectacular, which sees them rank 4th and 5th on quarter 3 and quarter 4 performances respectively.
As you know, MARS Ratings suggest that the Dogs are being significantly underrated, but there's not a lot to support this assessment in a review of the Dogs' performance against other teams in the eight.
They've played 10 matches against other finalists, winning just six, and they've scored and conceded about 93 points per game in each. Most recently, they met finalists in Rounds 20 and 21, losing on both occasions, which is part of what's contributed to their significant rerating by the bookies.
Their statistics for scoring shot production, scoring shot conversion, and scoring shot concession all rank them mid-pack. What's hurt them has been the rate at which opponents have converted scoring shot opportunities: 58.5% of the time, easily the highest amongst their peers.
Similarly, their quarter-by-quarter performance is marred only by a single statistic - their final term results. They've won only 40% of final terms against finalists and been outscored by around 15%.
Swans fans will take heart from their recent performances against the teams they're likely to meet in coming weeks.
Across Round 16 to 21 they met fellow-finalists on five occasions, winning four of these encounters and losing only one. Before this purple patch of form, the Swans had gone 0 and 6 against finalists, so their combined season record is an unremarkable 4 wins and 7 losses.
In these 11 encounters the Swans have been outscored by about 10%, scoring 85 points per game and conceding 94. On all the scoring related metrics - shots scored and conceded per game, own and opponent scoring shot conversion - they're ranked either 5th or 6th.
Their quarter-by-quarter performance is curious. In win-loss terms they've the worst 1st quarter performance of any of the teams remaining, having won 2 and lost 9 1st terms. However, they've narrowly outscored their opponents in these quarters.
In 3rd quarters their performance has been worse. They've won only a single 3rd term, drawn another, and lost the remaining nine, scoring 194 points and conceding 324 in doing so.
But they have the best final term record of all the finalists: won 8, lost 3, percentage 123. I'm not sure, though, that you want to make a habit of relying on barnstorming finishes in finals.
Freo have, I'd say, just done enough to get into the eight. Their MARS Rating is only 995.5, which makes them only the 3rd team in the last seven seasons to make the finals with a sub-1000 MARS Rating and the lowest-rated team to finish 6th on the competition ladder across all 12 seasons for which I've calculated MARS Ratings.
They've played 10 games against fellow-finalists, winning only four and being outscored by an average of about 22 points per game. Four of these contests came in the last six weeks of the season; they went 1 and 3 in these matches.
Fremantle has conceded more scoring shots per game (28.5) than any other team in the eight, though they've reduced the consequences of this profligacy somewhat by allowing these opportunities to be converted only 56.5% of the time - the third-best performance amongst all the finalists.
Their quarter-by-quarter performances have been fairly consistent and generally below average, brightened only a little by their 50% win-loss record and 104 percentage performance in 2nd terms.
A glance at their performance record against fellow-finalists suggests that their 7th placed finish might be a tad misleading. Their 50% win-loss record is the 4th-best amongst the finalists and is underpinned by a 104 percentage in games against other teams in the eight.
They've performed well on two aspects of scoring performance: scoring shot production, where their 25.0 scoring shots per game ranks them 3rd, and opponent conversion rate, where their 49.1% rate ranks them 2nd.
But they've stumbled on the other two scoring dimensions. Their own conversion rate of 53.5% is only good enough for 5th spot, and their concession of 25.5 scoring shots per game ranks them 6th on this metric.
The Hawks have consistently started well in games involving other finalists. They boast a 7 and 4 record in 1st terms, which is 2nd best amongst all the finalists, and they've outscored their opponents 248-221 in these quarters. They've not generally been able to sustain this level of performance, however, and have won only about 40% of 2nd, 3rd and final terms, recording percentages of around 100 - a little less in the case of final terms - in doing so.
Carlton have done reasonably well this year - whenever they've been playing a team from outside the eight.
Their record against top 8 teams is 2 and 8, with both wins recorded in the space of three weeks way back in Rounds 5 and 7. Since then the Blues have gone 0 and 7 against the finalists including back-to-back losses against fellow-finalists in Rounds 21 and 22.
During their 10 clashes with finalists, the Blues have been outscored by almost 4 goals per game as they've struggled both to create scoring shot opportunities (21.6 per game, ranked 7th) and prevent them for their opponents (27.9 per game, also ranked 7th). They have though been markedly respectful of the chances they've had, converting them at a rate of 56.9%, the highest rate amongst all the finalists. But they've also allowed their opponents to convert at a relatively high rate of 55.2%, ranking them 6th on this metric.
Quarters 1 through 3 have, on average, been best forgotten by Blues supporters. The win-loss percentages for the Blues for these quarters have been 30%, 20% and 40% respectively, and the scoring percentages of 75, 58 and 88 would read better were they cricketing rather than football related results.
The Blues have, though, generally finished well against their peers, winning 60% of final terms to rank 3rd on performances in this term, albeit by only scoring 3% more points than they've conceded.
Still, if you win a Grand Final by securing only 50.7% of the points ...