In no particular order, we run the rule over all 16 clubs and sort the contenders from the pretenders.
It started on the weekend for Wests Tigers fans when their team battled the Parramatta Eels and that damned traitor, Mitchell Moses. Wests Tigers have been a lot better in recent weeks but being competitive doesn’t equate to winning games of footy in the NRL.
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Supporters would love to see outgoing stars James Tedesco and Aaron Woods give everything and help the club finish the season strongly and avoid the wooden spoon.
Wests Tigers finish the year at Leichhardt Oval against the Warriors. No doubt it will be interesting to see how many hang around for Woods and Tedesco’s lap of honour.
Best case scenario: Some wins would be nice.
Worst case scenario: Wooden spoon.
A premiership favourite to begin 2017, Canberra has failed to deliver on a massive 2016 campaign and find themselves six points outside the top 8 after going down to the Melbourne Storm.
You’d have to think that loss to the Storm was their grand final — they weren’t good enough.
Raiders fans have seen enough of Ricky kicking chairs into the chilly Canberra air.
Momentum is a hell of a thing and you’ve either got it or you don’t.
Best case scenario: An early Christmas miracle and they scrape into the playoffs.
Worst case scenario: Unrest continues and the exodus begins.
Reserve grade halfback Mason Lino has replaced superstar Shaun Johnson. In a perfect world, the Warriors go on winning streak, go deep into the finals, before Johnson returns to clinch their maiden premiership. Yeah right!
Reality is, the Warriors have enough class across the board to cause some upsets in Johnson’s absence but they are already three wins behind 8th place St George Illawarra.
Coach Kearney should sit Lino down, throw Any Given Sunday into the DVD player and show him what Jamie Foxx did with the Miami Sharks. Yeah right x2.
Best case scenario: Hope that teams above them fall over.
Worst case scenario: They don’t win another game.
The Broncos are sitting pretty and while they are in a great position for a serious tilt at the title, Brisbane’s fans should be excited that they are yet to find that next gear. And no, that wasn’t another gear on Thursday night. Bulldogs just suck.
Best case scenario: Ben Hunt drops the trophy instead of a footy on grand final night.
Worst case scenario: They don’t find that next gear.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
It’s been the same old story for the Dragons after starting the season like a house on fire. All we need is David Attenborough doing the voice over as the Saints make their annual pilgrimage from April contender to September pretender.
But stop the tape — there is more than light at the end of the tunnel after they hammered Manly on Sunday.
That light is now a blitzkrieg.
They need to keep it going next weekend against Newcastle.
Best case scenario: The Saints go marching to October.
Worst case scenario: Another year watching the finals from the couch.
Melbourne are headed for another minor premiership with the end game being Cooper Cronk on the shoulders of Cameron Smith and Billy Slater celebrating a premiership at ANZ Stadium.
Right now, it’s Storm first, daylight second and everyone else in the chasing pack.
Does anyone really think they won’t be there on Grand Final night?
Best case scenario: Grand Final glory.
Worst case scenario: Grand Final heartache.
Penrith haven’t had the best season thus far but are in a fantastic position to pounce and make a serious run towards the finals, sitting in ninth place. After getting flogged by South Sydney, they’ve bounced back to beat the high-flying Manly, Warriors in Auckland and the Titans.
They aren’t officially on a roll just yet but they’ve got all the ingredients for that little thing called momentum.
In the next two weeks, they play the Bulldogs and Wests Tigers — that’s a potential 5-0 run before crunch games against the Cowboys, Raiders, Dragons and Manly again.
Best case scenario: Grand final dark horse.
Worst case scenario: They lose their way again and miss the playoffs.
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The $64,000 question is how deep can the Cowboys go without Johnathan Thurston?
The unthinkable however is that North Queensland fall over without their inspirational playmaker and miss the finals altogether. It’s a long shot considering the ninth place Panthers are three wins behind but it isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
Best case scenario: Make the finals and see what happens.
Worst case scenario: They miss the finals.
Cronulla are in a wonderful position and could go back-to-back but they still have work to do to finish top four.
When it rains it pours and it could be another Sharknado in October.
Best case scenario: Back-to-back.
Worst case scenario: Finals flounder and out in straight sets.
They are an outside shot but everything must go their way to play September footy. Titans aren’t a one-man team by any stretch and they’re not built that way but they need some of that Jarryd Hayne magic to cause some boil overs.
Best case scenario: Finals footy.
Worst case scenario: Another mid-table nothing season.
Right now, these Roosters are the biggest threat to the Storm. They have a mean pack, classy halves and big, fast outside backs.
Halfback Mitchell Pearce has had a huge season but needs to continue that into the finals.
Best case scenario: Another premiership.
Worst case scenario: Pearce fails to fire.
Considering the crap they’ve been through in recent seasons, coach Trent Barrett has done a great job getting this roster up to fourth place prior to the latest round. That all went out the window however on Sunday when they were demolished by the resurgent Dragons.
Daly Cherry-Evans has received lots of praise but much of that can be attributed to Blake Green and Api Koroisau.
Best case scenario: Finals Week 3.
Worst case scenario: Eliminated Week 1.
HOW BAD ARE THE BULLDOGS!?
They’ve lacked direction, vision and creativity. This is a lifeless football team.
Let’s move on.
Best case scenario: Hasler gets sacked.
Worst case scenario: Hasler doesn’t get sacked.
Parramatta just don’t go away do they?
The combination of Corey Norman and Mitchell Moses and Semi Radradra floating around makes the Eels a prickly customer running into the glory rounds.
Unfortunately they’ve lost the invaluable Clint Gutherson for the season after rupturing his ACL in Parramatta’s 17-16 win over Wests Tigers.
Best case scenario: Week 2 Finals.
Worst case scenario: They miss the finals.
Surely the battling Newcastle are everyone’s second team these days?
Fans haven’t had much to cheer about lately but they should be proud of these young men who keep turning up every weekend.
Best case scenario: 15th.
Worst case scenario: Another wooden spoon.
Gee they look like a tired bunch of footballers. Coach Michael Maguire is a ruthless operator but it seems his program this year has left his players broken, battered and bruised.
They won’t win many more games in 2017 — if any.
Best case scenario: The club re-signs Angus Crichton for another 100 years. What a player.
Worst case scenario: Losing streak adds to Maguire v Players speculation.
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