NRL Power Rankings: Time to panic for Raiders?

The Wests Tigers are off the bottom of the rankings after a spectacular win, the Sharks lost a game but still moved into the top three, the Cowboys and Dragons climb and why it may be time to panic in Canberra.

Note: Throughout the year, ESPN will rank all 16 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 premiership contenders.

1. Panthers

Last week: 1

The premiers seem to just keep getting better. Nathan Cleary produced his best game of 2022 so far with three try assists and a line break in the 40-12 thumping of Brisbane while ball-playing lock Isaah Yeo had another couple of assists in what has been a stellar season. The Panthers are so good, even back-row workhorses Scott Sorensen and Liam Martin are producing highlight-reel plays these days. When will their winning streak end?

Round six opponent: Raiders

2. Storm

Last week: 2

Melbourne won arguably the game of the season in Saturday's 34-18 triumph over a much improved Sharks side, with Cameron Munster at his very best and Harry Grant looking typically dangerous out of dummy-half. They were without the Bromwich brothers in that match and have coped well without key players almost every week this season.

Round six opponent: Warriors

3. Sharks

Last week: 4

Cronulla look more and more like genuine contenders every week, and the Storm had to be at their best to beat them on Saturday night. Matt Moylan is playing as well as he has for years, Siosifa Talakai is a revelation in the centres, and the forward pack is matching (or getting the better of) their opponents every week. Craig Fitzgibbon has made a very strong start to this NRL coaching caper.

Round six opponent: Sea Eagles

4. Eels

Last week: 3

The Wests Tigers had to get a win eventually, but nobody really expected it would happen against the Eels in Parramatta on Monday. The Eels were well below their best, coughing up plenty of errors and completing less than 70% of their sets, and still came within a missed field goal of snatching a win. Expect them to bounce back with a vengeance against Newcastle this week.

Round six opponent: Knights

5. Sea Eagles

Last week: 5

Manly were superb in the first half against the Titans, romping to a 24-4 lead. And they were pretty ordinary in the second, conceding three tries and scoring none. Still, a win's a win -- and any victory without Tom Trbojevic has to be extra satisfying for Des Hasler's men. Two-try hero Haumole Olakau'atu was sensational in the second row, Daly Cherry-Evans has been in great touch for a while now and Reuben Garrick was excellent filling Trbojevic's fullback role against the Titans.

Round six opponent: Sharks

6. Roosters

Last week: 6

They got the win against the Warriors but something is still not right at the Roosters. The Warriors scored first and were in the contest for most of the match, and some standout performances from Sam Walker hasn't been enough for the star-studded Roosters to dominate teams. Luke Keary and James Tedesco remain two of the best attacking players in the business so there's every chance Trent Robinson's side is still warming up, but they're not playing like the top-four certainties they once were.

Round six opponent: Dragons

7. Rabbitohs

Last week: 7

Damien Cook is doing his best to show he's still the game's top hooker with standout performances recently, and his match-winning hat-trick against the Bulldogs was the best so far. His partner in crime in the middle of the ruck has been the excellent Cameron Murray, and that duo is making up for the absence of Adam Reynolds and the below-average form of Cody Walker this year. Youngster Lachlan Ilias continues to improve each week at halfback.

Round six opponent: Wests Tigers

8. Warriors

Last week: 8

Reece Walsh produced some sublime performances at fullback and Addin Fonua-Blake was a wrecking ball up front as the Warriors threatened a boilover against the Roosters on Sunday, eventually going down 22-14. They're one of three teams with a 3-3 record after six rounds (the other two are above and below them in these rankings) and look likely to be battling to secure a top-eight spot for the rest of the season.

Round six opponent: Storm

9. Cowboys

Last week: 12

After an underwhelming 2021 campaign Todd Payten is quietly putting together a very solid team at North Queensland. They showed plenty of fight to come back from 12-0 down to beat the Raiders 18-12 in Canberra on Thursday, with fullback-turned-winger-turned-centre Val Holmes grabbing one try and young-gun back-rowers Heilum Luki and Jeremiah Nanai scoring the other two. And Jason Taumalolo is getting plenty of game time again with season-highs for minutes (71), run metres (255), post-contact metres (114) and tackle breaks (5) on Thursday.

Round six opponent: Titans

10. Dragons

Last week: 14

After a run of four straight defeats the Dragons would have been relieved to earn a 21-16 win over Newcastle. Ben Hunt was terrific at halfback while Moses Suli had a damaging game in the centres with 177 metres, nine tackle breaks and two try assists. The next step is to show they can compete with the top sides -- starting with Monday's traditional Anzac Day clash with the Roosters at the SCG.

Round six opponent: Roosters

11. Knights

Last week: 9

The Kalyn Ponga speculation is set to continue for a few more weeks but the man himself was terrific on Sunday, even if his best performance of the year so far wasn't enough to carry Newcastle over the line against the Dragons. Poor discipline and lack of execution cost them, and it's the kind of result that could come back to haunt them in the race for the finals later in the year. It's hard to see them climbing these rankings in the short term with very tough assignments against Parramatta and Melbourne coming up.

Round six opponent: Eels

12. Titans

Last week: 11

Yet again we're talking about inconsistency at the Titans, who effectively lost Saturday's game against Manly in the first half before clicking into gear in the second with three tries in a 15-minute burst. David Fifita scored one try and set up another with a couple of trademark bullocking runs and he'll be a crucial weapon in this week's all-Queensland rivalry match with the Cowboys.

Round six opponent: Cowboys

13. Raiders

Last week: 10

Is it time to panic in Canberra? Since their round one win over Cronulla they've had one stunning comeback win over the Titans and four defeats -- including two against the Cowboys. They were in control early against North Queensland on Thursday night but blew a 12-0 lead in one of those second-half fades that has unfortunately become one of the Raiders' trademarks in recent years. If the spotlight is not already on Ricky Stuart it might be after this week's clash with Penrith.

Round six opponent: Panthers

14. Broncos

Last week: 13

Brisbane were no match for the Panthers in Penrith but there were a few strong individual performances. Kotoni Staggs continued his strong recent run of form with a try, a try assist and eight tackle breaks while Adam Reynolds had an assist, three forced dropouts and a whopping 641 kick metres. They've got a very winnable contest against Canterbury on Friday night.

Round six opponent: Bulldogs

15. Wests Tigers

Last week: 16

They did it at last! And what a spectacular way to earn your first win of the season, with a long-range Jackson Hastings field goal in the final seconds handing the Tigers a drought-breaking victory against the Eels in Parramatta on Monday afternoon. It was a heart-warming result for all non-Eels fans watching on and a really encouraging one for a team (and a coach) that has been under fire this year. Michael Maguire's decision to give Hastings a dominant halves role over Luke Brooks paid off, while Brooks was also strong and Daine Laurie had one of his best games at fullback.

Round six opponent: Rabbitohs

16. Bulldogs

Last week: 15

The Bulldogs held a 6-0 lead after 25 minutes in Friday's clash with the Rabbitohs when the contentious sin-binning of Jeremy Marshall-King swung momentum Souths' way. In the next 10 minutes the Bunnies ran in three tries, with three more in the second half putting the result beyond doubt. The Bulldogs need to be close to their best to beat the league's top teams and they haven't got there yet this year -- but if they can produce another strong start this week against Brisbane they're a big chance of a win.

Round six opponent: Broncos