It's February, which means it's time to take a wild guess on how the AFL will be situated come September.

Will last season's results and half of this year's pre-season be a useful guide to the 2023 season?

The 2023 fixture has been released and most squads are finalised, so here's how the ladder may look at the home & away season's end.

1. Melbourne

Predicted Record: 18-5
Estimated Percentage: 121.8%
Last Year: 2nd

After their illustrious 2021 premiership, Melbourne learned the difficulty of going back to back in this competition, bowing out in straight sets last year after starting 10-0.

They have since stocked up over the off-season and appear to be filling some holes on their list, leaving them as one of the favourites for the 2023 premiership.

Fans are itching to see what the 'Gawndy' duo will produce as it seems like this experiment could make or break the Demons.

Two of the biggest weaknesses in Melbourne's 2022 campaign were their midfield-forward connection and their potency at the key forward position. The addition of Lachie Hunter and the development of Jacob Van Rooyen may be the fix and the difference between a finals exit and a grand final victory.

Melbourne will be prepared for some early-season blockbusters as they play the Bulldogs, Lions and Swans in the first three rounds.

They will also be aware of some potentially crucial match-ups to finish the season, with Richmond in round 20, Carlton in round 22, and Sydney again in round 24. Don't be surprised if we see a mid-season slump and some upset losses to the likes of St Kilda at Marvel or Port Adelaide in SA.

2. Brisbane

Predicted Record: 16-6-1
Estimated Percentage: 120.8%
Last Year: 6th

The Lions are one of the more unpredictable yet exciting sides of 2023 after stocking up on a variety of talent over the off-season also.

They seemed to be wasting their premiership window through 2018-2021 after multiple disappointing exits, before turning the tables with some upset victories of their own in a surprising 2022 finals run.

Brisbane Lions' Jack Gunston following his trade from Hawthorn (Image: Brisbane Lions)

They now have one of the most top-heavy lists in the competition with superstars on all lines, but they are still yet to definitively disprove their poor finals reputation.

Jack Gunston will add some much-needed class to the forward line, taking some attention off Eric Hipwood and Joe Daniher. Josh Dunkley is an extremely valuable addition to their midfield unit and will help steady the ship when opponents gain momentum.

They will be tested in the first four rounds with Port Adelaide, Melbourne, the Bulldogs and Collingwood as their opponents.

They will win some big games but may be susceptible to some upset losses or even draws. Watch out for some potential surprise struggles against Gold Coast, Adelaide or Hawthorn in the middle of the season.

3. Geelong

Predicted Record: 15-8
Estimated Percentage: 124.3%
Last Year: 1st

The Cats had the last laugh in 2022 as they defied all odds with their ageing list and earned a premiership with a dominant grand final victory.

No doubt they will once again be faced with external queries regarding the seniority of their roster. But while they won't be 'too old, too slow' for the competition, it is likely that they are simply outclassed by some potentially more talented teams.

However, it is hard to see many teams exceeding the quality of the Cats, who have All-Australian players on every line and elite young talent with Sam De Koning, Max Holmes, Tanner Bruhn, Oliver Henry and Jhye Clark.

Geelong have proven to be a very consistent and honest team, rarely losing games against poor sides and often standing up in the biggest spots.

These traits will be tested in the early season, as few games will be bigger than Round 1 and 2 against Collingwood and Carlton at the MCG.

It is for this reason that Geelong should finish top four, but potentially lose some marquee games against Melbourne, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood or the like.

4. Carlton

Predicted Record: 15-8
Estimated Percentage: 119.2%
Last Year: 9th

Despite a ninth-place finish last season, the majority of football watchers acknowledged the quality of Carlton at their best, which was arguably at the level of a top-four side.

The heartbreak of 2022 should provide the motivational spark for the Blues to finally make the eight and even earn a double chance, but it can be hard to trust Carlton at times.

They are often plagued by injury and 2023 is already no different, with star Sam Walsh to potentially miss the first month of the season, while Zac Williams will miss the entire season.

Fortunately, Carlton in 2023 are another team with All-Australian talent everywhere. Jacob Weitering is their rock in defence and Caleb Marchbank is hopefully set to return for a full year, while Tom De Koning will have another pre-season under his belt.

Given their recent history and trends, we can expect some big wins from this side but most definitely some infuriating losses.

Some matches that stick out as potential upsets include Adelaide in Round 5, Essendon in Round 13, Hawthorn in Round 16 and St Kilda in Round 21.

5. Sydney

Predicted Record: 15-8
Estimated Percentage: 115.0%
Last Year: 3rd

As last year's runner-up, Sydney were reminiscent of the 1993 'baby bombers' being well ahead of their time. Essendon won the premiership that year, however.

Although they have shown no signs of slowing down, other sides may have gone past them with some big off-season acquisitions. Sydney are betting on the development of Logan McDonald, James Rowbottom, Dylan Stephens, Chad Warner, Nick Blakey, Errol Gulden and the like.

Most, if not all of these players look like future stars, but the Swans are gradually losing some experience with Josh Kennedy retiring and Buddy on his last legs.

Like Geelong however, Sydney are an honest, consistent and well-oiled machine led by an expert senior coach in John Longmire. Swans fans can rest assured knowing their future is bright.

That being said, an upset already looms with a potential Round 1 loss to Gold Coast at Carrara. Still, Sydney are a must-watch side in 2023.

6. Fremantle

Predicted Record: 15-8
Estimated Percentage: 112.1%
Last Year: 5th

Another head-scratching team in 2023, it's hard to put a read on how the Dockers will perform after an up & down off-season.

Luke Jackson obviously makes them more dynamic and will improve their key forward presence. Moreover, the losses of Griffin Logue, Blake Acres and David Mundy have not been made up for and Fremantle probably enter the year with a shifted list.

They are obviously counting on the continued development of Serong, Amiss, Frederick and Brayshaw, the latter already being a star. Fans will also be eager to see what Fyfe can produce in most likely a forward role. Given their elite talent at small forward, Fyfe may be forced to start on the interchange bench and allow Taberner and Jackson to occupy the forward spine

Justin Longmuir gradually improves his credibility as a coach with every season and always having his team well-drilled. Dockers fans will trust that he can continue the trajectory of this team and lead them to another finals series and potentially a top-four spot.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MAY 06: Hayden Young of the Dockers celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2022 AFL Round 08 match between the Fremantle Dockers and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Optus Stadium on May 06, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Look for Fremantle to start their year red hot with their first five matches against non-finalists from last season before being challenged with a shocking fixture from Rounds 6-13.

7. Collingwood

Predicted Record: 14-9
Estimated Percentage: 105.1
Last Year: 4th

Collingwood are undoubtedly the most unpredictable team of 2023 after one of the most extraordinary fairytale runs which saw a 17th-placed side comeback a year later to finish one kick away from a grand final.

Some believe the metaphysical bond at Collingwood created by Craig McRae will carry the club to a premiership as soon as 2023, while others predict their luck will run out and have them crash out of the eight.

They are not a star-studded lineup but that hasn't mattered so far. They were routinely tougher than their opponent and could only be edged out by a juggernaut Geelong side and a home-ground advantaged Sydney.

That being said, the Tom Mitchell addition does improve their midfield drastically. Dan McStay is a wait in progress and their list has not changed much elsewhere.

Their first three matches will be irresistible for footy watchers; Geelong, Port Adelaide and Richmond will all be expecting quality from Collingwood and if they bring it, every game could be a blockbuster for the Pies over the course of the season.

Every AFL fan will have their eyes on Round 6 vs Essendon, Round 8 vs Sydney, Round 13 vs Melbourne, Round 20 vs Carlton and Round 22 vs Geelong.

8. Richmond

Predicted Record: 13-10
Estimated Percentage: 113.2
Last Year: 7th

Another team that heavily stocked up over the off-season, Richmond are once again all in on a fourth premiership run under Damien Hardwick to cement the legacies of Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt and others.

They have an improved midfield with Taranto and Hopper slotting in but there are question marks around their forward line.

Even if Shai Bolton develops into the best player in the competition, there is uncertainty around Jack Riewoldt and Dustin Martin at their age, plus Noah Cumberland and Maurice Rioli with their limited experience

In defence, Robbie Tarrant may struggle to hold his own against the elite full-forwards of the competition while Dylan Grimes will have to prove he can still lockdown opponents effectively at 31 years old.

Robbie Tarrant during the 2022 AFL Round 19 match between Richmond and Fremantle (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Media)

As always, Round 1 vs Carlton is massive but some other notable games include Round 3 vs Collingwood, Round 9 vs Geelong, Round 16 at Brisbane and Round 20 vs Melbourne.

9. Port Adelaide

Predicted Record: 13-10
Estimated Percentage: 105.8%
Last Year: 11th

2022 was further evidence that Port Adelaide are one of the most inconsistent sides of the last decade.

Under Ken Hinkley's tenure, the Power have finished 7th, 5th, 9th, 10th, 5th, 10th, 10th, 1st, 2nd and 9th chronologically. That's five finals appearances in 10 years with zero grand final appearances and three preliminary final appearances as their crowning achievements.

Their midfield is fine. Boak, Rozee and Wines are a quality starting three, with Butters and Powell-Pepper having a rare level of toughness about them, while Willem Drew has been valuable and Horne-Francis could be anything.

Their forward line is stacked with unrecognised, yet unfinished potential. Todd Marshall has been positive, Georgiades is improving, Rioli could fill a much needed hole, but we need to see more before we proclaim them.

In defense, Aliir Aliir, Darcy Byrne-Jones, Lachie Jones and Dan Houston carried most of the defensive load but more is needed to halt the elite forward lines of the competition.

Ken Hinkley will be relying on a successful season in order to sustain his tenure and the first half of the season may foreshadow his fate.

10. Western Bulldogs

Predicted Record: 12-10-1
Estimated Percentage: 107.8%
Last Year: 8th

It is hard to read the fate of the Luke Beveridge led Western Bulldogs. While they have played finals six out of eight years in his tenure and achieved a premiership and runner-up title, it seems like they have disappointed more than succeeded with their high-quality list.

It is fair to say that they underachieved in 2022 after falling short of another fairytale premiership run the year before. They snuck into the finals and were eliminated in a heart-breaking comeback defeat to a rampaging Fremantle side in Perth.

Since then they have lost best & fairest winner Josh Dunkley and Lachie Hunter but have added Liam Jones and Rory Lobb.

Some of their young stars will likely show their development and Marcus Bontempelli could be in for a Brownlow-contending year as a full-time midfielder.

However, while they may not haven taken a step back given the estimated improvements of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Sam Darcy, Cody Weightman and the like, most of the competition have taken steps forward with their lists. See Melbourne, Geelong, Brisbane, Carlton, Richmond, Collingwood, etc.

Western Bulldogs' Rory Lobb and Liam Jones during the 2023 AFL-preseason (Image: Western Bulldogs Twitter)

A 10th-placed finish would put intense heat on Luke Beveridge but he is a coach prone to silencing critics.

11. Gold Coast

Predicted Record: 12-11
Estimated Percentage: 96.2%
Last Year: 12th

The Suns are running shy of excuses to be missing finals but will find it tough in 2023 to contend with such a top-heavy competition.

They produced some of the best footy in their history during 2022 and will now welcome back star forward Ben King to the lineup.

They seem well-poised to inflict some damage early in the season but potentially tamper off at the business end as they tend to do.

It is not yet there time to contend for a flag but they should continue their steady improvement with their developing list. Even if they miss finals, 2023 could be the year Gold Coast end the season with their first winning record in history.

12. St Kilda

Predicted Record: 11-12
Estimated Percentage: 99.6%
Last Year: 10th

The Saints will be an exciting watch in 2023 under past and present coach Ross Lyon. Fans are eager to observe whatever new game plan or style will be implemented and whether Ross has what it takes to go one-better in his third stint as senior coach.

The Saints looked like a top six team halfway through 2022 and have since added to their youth with potential future star Mattaes Phillipou as well as James Van Es and Olli Hotton.

While a premiership this year is certainly not the benchmark, especially after a brutal injury to Max King, a finals berth is well within St Kilda's 2023 window.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 21: Ross Lyon the coach of the Saints speaks to Robert Harvey the assistant coach during a St Kilda Saints AFL training session at RSEA Park on November 21, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Keep tabs on a mouth-watering Roun 1 matchup when Lyon takes on his former side, Fremantle.

13. Essendon

Predicted Record: 11-12
Estimated Percentage: 98.1%
Last Year: 15th

Each year it seems there is one club that climbs from nowhere to reach the finals; Collingwood in 2022, Essendon in 2021, St Kilda in 2020, Bulldogs in 2019, the list goes on.

2023 could see Essendon feature once again under new coach, Brad Scott. They have talent on every line, and superstars through the midfield in the form of Darcy Parish and Zach Merrett.

Many fans will be focussed on their lacklustre performance last season but may forget their estimated trajectory after making finals in 2021 with such a young list.

However, their list, while talented, does not compete with the quality of the top half of the ladder where Richmond, Carlton, Brisbane and even the Bulldogs could reside.

14. Adelaide

Predicted Record: 10-13
Estimated Percentage: 92.2%
Last Year: 14th

Adelaide's list is still one of the youngest in the competition but is now at a stage where they should start showcasing some warning signs.

Finishing 14th may not look like improvement but a 10-13 record would be a pass for most objective pundits.

Josh Rachele, Jake Soligo and Sam Berry all look like potential stars while Izak Rankine, Riley Thilthorpe and Darcy Fogarty could start significantly impacting games this season.

Look for Adelaide to deliver some upset victories early in the season and demand A-game performances from top sides.

15. North Melbourne

Predicted Record: 5-18
Estimated Percentage: 72.5%
Last Year: 18th

One of the most intriguing stories of 2023 will be the impact of the 'Clarko effect' on North Melbourne.

Obviously no one expects the Kangaroos to make finals or inflict too much damage during the season, but they will be expected to show some level of competency under the greatest coach of this century.

Alastair Clarkson (Image by Zero Digital Media)

Roos fans will hope Luke Davies-Uniacke, Nick Larkey, Cam Zurhaar, Jy Simpkin and the like can take their game to the next level and potentially become future All-Australian players under Clarkson.

16. West Coast

Predicted Record: 5-18
Estimated Percentage: 71.4%
Last Year: 17th

COVID-19 took its toll on the West Coast Eagles and forced them to endure a difficult 2022. While their list suffered greatly with limited availability of their best players, they also dug themselves a hole with a lacklustre off-season training program.

They are now stuck with an ageing list and little-to-no AFL experience from their youth. They have 18 players on their list under the age of 23 and an average of six games played between them all.

This will be a rebuilding year for the club and a chance to get some games into their 18-22-year-olds.

17. Hawthorn

Predicted Record: 3-18-2
Estimated Percentage: 84.0%
Last Year: 13th

Hawthorn probably over-achieved with an eight-win season in 2022 under new coach Sam Mitchell, but nonetheless provided a scare for some top teams by playing some exciting footy.

They potentially have the most underwhelming list in the AFL but demanded the best from their opponent nearly every week.

The losses of Jack Gunston, Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O'Meara will hurt their record this year and should see them earn a top pick for the 2023 draft.

18. GWS

Predicted Record: 2-21
Estimated Percentage: 71.4%
Last Year: 16th

The Giants are another team entering rebuild mode and will have no problems finishing at the lower end of the 2023 ladder and acquiring some more elite young talent in the draft.

Footy fans will wait and see what Adam Kingsley can produce with a full pre-season as coach and whether or not moving on from Leon Cameron was a mistake.

GWS Giants' Toby Greene and senior coach Adam Kingsley during the 2023 AFL pre-season (Image: GWS Giants Twitter)

There is potential for this side to finish higher up the ladder with Greene, Coniglio, Whitfield Kelly among others, still performing at a high level but this year should be focussed on developing their young talent.