NRL Power Rankings: Cowboys look the real deal

There's been plenty of movement in the power rankings this week following a round packed with upsets, with a few big guns stunned and some strugglers turning their form around. Plus, a new team hits rock bottom.

Here's where your club sits after seven rounds.

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

Penrith were given an almighty scare by the erratic Titans on Friday night, trailing 4-0 at half-time, before normal service resumed with the Panthers running in three unanswered tries in the second half. That game may serve as a wake-up call -- even though they got the win -- and should hold them in good stead for this week's battle of the west against rivals Parramatta.

This week's opponent: Eels

2. Storm

Last week: 2

Melbourne smashed point-scoring records last year and they remain the best attacking team in the land, scoring a staggering 120 points in the past fortnight. They should see off St George Illawarra ahead of a dream Magic Round match-up against the Panthers.

This week's opponent: Dragons

3. Sharks

Last week: 3

While Penrith survived their wake-up call against a lowly-ranked Queensland side, the Sharks weren't so lucky -- stunned by the Broncos 16-7. Siosifa Talakai was shut down after a stunning recent run of form and Cronulla's red hot attack dried up after Matt Moylan's opening try in the 20th minute. It's the Sharks' first real slip-up since round 1 so they maintain their spot in our rankings, and they should turn things around this week.

This week's opponent: Warriors

4. Rabbitohs

Last week: 7

It's hard to know how much to read into South Sydney's 40-22 win over Manly. It's a quality result over a strong opponent, but the Bunnies didn't quite put their opponents away after the Sea Eagles were reduced to 12 men just 10 minutes into the contest. Still there were plenty of bright signs, not least of which was a one-try, two-try-assist performance from Cody Walker after a sluggish start to the season for the playmaker.

This week's opponent: Broncos

5. Sea Eagles

Last week: 5

Manly would have taken plenty of positives out of a fighting defeat against Souths, playing a man short for almost the entire match following Karl Lawton's send-off. He'll miss a month but Tom Trbojevic returns this week, joining brothers Jake and Ben on the field for the first time at NRL level.

This week's opponent: Wests Tigers

6. Cowboys

Last week: 8

After making the most of a relatively easy draw to start the season it was unclear just how strong the Cowboys are this year, but an absolute drubbing of top-four team Parramatta gave a pretty clear answer. Todd Payten's men have improved their defence dramatically this year, Jason Taumalolo is leading one of the best-performing forward packs in the league, and Tom Dearden, Scott Drinkwater and Chad Townsend are creating plenty of try-scoring chances. They'll be licking their lips at the prospect of hosting a down-and-out Newcastle outfit this week.

This week's opponent: Knights

7. Eels

Last week: 4

Let's start with the obvious: a 35-4 loss to the Cowboys is not good for a team that has premiership ambitions. But there were some mitigating factors for the Eels on Saturday night, with the "home" match being played in Darwin in hot and humid conditions that would have suited their opponents, plus a dire injury situation in the outside backs which resulted in Dylan Brown again being used in the centres. The return of Tom Opacic means Brown is back at five-eighth this week, though Parramatta will need to improve across the board if they are to challenge Penrith.

This week's opponent: Panthers

8. Broncos

Last week: 10

Brisbane were one of the big surprise winners of Round 8, shocking an in-form Sharks side. Kotoni Staggs was superb in shutting down Siosifa Talakai while also bagging a try and six tackle busts, while Adam Reynolds was very strong with a line break, a line-break assist and a couple of offloads. Payne Haas's injury is a blow this week as Reynolds faces his former club Souths for the first time.

This week's opponent: Rabbitohs

9. Dragons

Last week: 9

It didn't quite live up to the "game of the round" hype but the Dragons got the job done against the Wests Tigers on Sunday to stretch their winning streak to three. They're making a habit of winning the close ones (their recent margins have been 5, 2 and 6) but it's hard to see them keeping pace with a red hot Melbourne team this week.

This week's opponent: Storm

10. Roosters

Last week: 6

It feels bizarre to have the Roosters this low but just about any other club with the Roosters' form would sit even lower in the power rankings. Not only are they 4-4 through eight rounds following back-to-back defeats, but they haven't even had a particularly tough draw -- their losses have come against the Knights, Rabbitohs, Dragons and Bulldogs. But there is precedent for such a slow start for the Tricolours, who were 4-4 in 2018 before winning 12 of their next 16 to win the minor premiership (then going on to win the grand final). Surely a coach as good as Trent Robinson and a team as talented as this get their act together soon?

This week's opponent: Titans

11. Wests Tigers

Last week: 11

The Tigers were one disallowed try away from at least forcing extra time against the Dragons and can feel confident they've turned the corner after a dire start to 2022. With Adam Doueihi still to return they should improve further, although Michael Maguire may face a headache when it comes to finding the best way to use Doueihi in the backline with Luke Brooks looking good alongside the excellent Jackson Hastings in the halves.

This week's opponent: Sea Eagles

12. Warriors

Last week: 12

A golden point win is always something to celebrate, even if the Warriors' triumph over a struggling Raiders outfit wasn't the highest-quality game you've even seen. It certainly was a good way to put the previous week's 60-point shellacking at the hands of Melbourne behind them.

This week's opponent: Sharks

13. Titans

Last week: 14

The inconsistent Gold Coast continue to intrigue and frustrate with equal measure, threatening an absolute boilover against the Panthers with a 4-0 halftime lead before slumping to an 18-4 loss. David Fifita's injury hurts but does give Justin Holbrook's men the opportunity to fine-tune an attacking gameplan that doesn't resolve around finding ways to get their million-dollar man involved.

This week's opponent: Roosters

14. Bulldogs

Last week: 16

There are few better ways to snap a six-game losing streak than by beating the Roosters, and the relief was palpable for Trent Barrett and co on Saturday. Josh Addo-Carr provided the star-power, creating a couple of tries out of nothing with a dummy-half dart and a long-range intercept, and he's probably going to do more of the same to spark a team that still has the worst attacking record in the league.

This week's opponent: Raiders

15. Raiders

Last week: 15

Canberra's tendency to switch off at halftime and let their opponents back into the contest came back to haunt them yet again on Saturday, with a 20-6 lead turning into a 21-20 golden point loss. It's always worth keeping in mind the Raiders lost their first-choice hooker and halfback at the start of the season, but even so the pressure must be mounting on Ricky Stuart. Another reshuffle this week sees Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad return to the fullback role while Jarrod Croker will make his first appearance of 2022 in what may be a must-win game against Canterbury.

This week's opponent: Bulldogs

16. Knights

Last week: 13

Two rounds into this season the Knights sat atop the NRL ladder, having scored 46 points and conceded 10 in confident wins over the Roosters and Tigers. In the past six rounds they've scored another 46 points and conceded 196, culminating in Sunday's embarrassing 50-2 result against Melbourne. They've been smashed by injuries -- forcing inexperienced players to play out of position and the likes of Tyson Frizell and Adam Clune to play injured -- but the team is also clearly down on confidence and that can be hard to recover from.

This week's opponent: Cowboys