The Eels rise and the Rabbitohs slide as several teams eye potential winning streaks in the lead-up to Origin I. But first, a bumper Magic Round in Brisbane that could swing the momentum of some of the NRL's elite teams.
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.
Last week: 2
Nine rounds in and the Storm are flying, scoring a monstrous 335 points -- 37.2 per game -- to leapfrog the Panthers atop the NRL ladder and our rankings. It's the best attacking record at this stage of the season of any team, ever, and sets up a genuine blockbuster and likely Grand Final preview against the Panthers in Magic Round. They are set to be without Ryan Papenhuyzen (who alone has scored 127 points -- one fewer than the Raiders and more than the Tigers, Titans, Knights or Bulldogs) which could bring them back to the pack a little in the short term.
This week's opponent: Panthers
Last week: 1
An epic 21-game home winning streak came to an end against arch rivals Parramatta, but the Panthers have a chance to bounce straight back in emphatic fashion against Melbourne on Saturday night. On the other hand, a loss against the Storm would mean they'd face the prospect of a three-game losing streak when they face the (admittedly rusty) Roosters the following week. It's a genuinely tricky period for the once seemingly unbeatable Panthers, especially with the State of Origin period just around the corner.
This week's opponent: Storm
Last week: 3
Craig Fitzgibbon's Cronulla side just continues to impress, earning a big win against the Warriors despite playing the vast majority of the game with 12 players (and briefly with 11 players). Will Kennedy's early send-off left the Sharks in the lurch but after conceding two quick tries they rallied to score four themselves. Nicho Hynes had another massive game with a try, two try assists, four goals, a field goal, five tackle breaks, five offloads and 20 runs for 164 metres to move into third place behind Papenhuyzen and Isaah Yeo in Dally M voting.
This week's opponent: Raiders
Last week: 7
Parramatta's heavy loss to the Cowboys in Darwin a fortnight ago always looked like a blip on the radar and so it proved, with the Eels establishing their premiership credentials by beating the Panthers in Penrith. Dylan Brown returned to five-eighth with reinforcements bolstering their stocks in the outside backs and it paid dividends immediately, and the Eels are the only team to have beaten the Storm or Panthers this season (with both wins coming away from home as well).
This week's opponent: Roosters
5. Sea Eagles
Last week: 5
The triple Trbojevic tactic is paying dividends so far for Manly, with youngster Ben Trbojevic scoring twice in a 36-22 win over the Tigers. A 14-0 first half set up the win with defence taking a back seat for both teams in an eight-try second half. The Sea Eagles face a tougher test against a resurgent Brisbane at a packed Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
This week's opponent: Broncos
Last week: 6
Todd Payten's team is having a dream run at the moment, winning four straight including some comprehensive scorelines -- beating the Titans by 26, the Eels by 31 and now the Knights by 20. But while their attack has been clicking (Chad Townsend stepped up against Newcastle with four try assists) their success has been built on defence. The 16 points they conceded against Newcastle was actually the second-most they've conceded all year; the Cowboys have let in just 113 points from nine games, a defensive record that's just three points behind runaway leaders Melbourne and Penrith. They'll play both these teams in the next few weeks but before that they should get the job done against the Tigers.
This week's opponent: Wests Tigers
Last week: 8
Adam Reynolds showed South Sydney what they're missing with a try, two try assists and five goals from as many attempts in a 32-12 thrashing of his old club. He's living up to the hype as a potential signing of the season and the Broncos are looking as good as they have in years with three wins on the trot. If they can get another result against Manly on Friday it wouldn't be a surprise if they win seven straight, with matches against strugglers Newcastle, the Gold Coast and Canberra on the horizon.
This week's opponent: Sea Eagles
Last week: 9
Are the Roosters back? Or did they just play the Titans? The Tricolours' 28-point win was their best scoreline of 2022 and was a welcome return to form after back-to-back losses to the Dragons and Bulldogs, but we'll get a much better picture of where they're at when they face Parramatta in Magic Round. On the bright side James Tedesco (three tries) and Luke Keary (three try assists) are looking more like their old selves after the star duo made quiet starts to the season.
This week's opponent: Eels
Last week: 4
"Short-term pain for long-term gain" has to be the mantra for Souths after being on the receiving end of a big loss engineered by their former skipper Adam Reynolds. They've already copped plenty of flak for letting Reynolds go, and it looks like a bad move now, but the Rabbitohs' gamble is that the 31-year-old wasn't worth the three-year deal that Brisbane offered -- and that prediction may well turn out to be true in a year or two. For now though Souths have to battle on with the inexperienced Lachlan Ilias and an out-of-sorts Cody Walker in the halves, and at this stage it's hard to see last year's grand finalists being a title threat in 2022.
This week's opponent: Warriors
Last week: 10
After three straight wins the Dragons were humbled 42-6 by the Storm, a result that isn't as disastrous as it looks considering this Melbourne side is statistically one of the greatest attacking outfits of all time. St George Illawarra are still well in the mix for a top-eight finish and have three winnable games coming up against the Titans, Warriors and Bulldogs before their round 13 bye.
This week's opponent: Titans
11. Wests Tigers
Last week: 11
An unfortunate sin-binning for Stefano Utoikamanu swung the contest Manly's way on Saturday, with the Tigers conceding two tries with Utoikamanu off the field. The Tigers showed plenty of fight to match the Sea Eagles in the second half, and they are at least showing they can compete every week -- even if they still just have two wins to their name in 2022.
This week's opponent: Cowboys
Last week: 15
Canberra worked their way to a 10-point lead at halftime last Friday -- and they held onto it! A 14-4 home win against the Bulldogs isn't the most exciting result but it snapped a five-game losing streak for the Green Machine and gives them some hope of shaking off the dreaded "Faders" tag eventually.
This week's opponent: Sharks
Last week: 12
The Warriors are lucky to only drop one spot after an inexplicable performance against a Sharks team that was reduced to 12 men just 16 minutes into the contest. The New Zealanders did run in two quick tries in the five minutes following Will Kennedy's early exit, but were held scoreless for the rest of the contest as the hosts ran in four more tries. Even when the Sharks lost Jesse Ramien to a sin bin, briefly making the game 13-on-11, the Warriors didn't get close to scoring. It's a hard result to justify and has got to be a hit to the team's confidence going forward.
This week's opponent: Rabbitohs
Last week: 13
Alarm bells are ringing now for the Gold Coast, who have lost five on the trot and looked particularly bad in a 44-16 loss to the Roosters. The midweek signing of Kieran Foran on a two-year deal has raised eyebrows (especially after the club let skipper and fellow veteran half Jamal Fogarty leave at the end of last season) but the Titans clearly need some experience in their young spine, while they also need to fix a defence that ranks third-worst in the league.
This week's opponent: Dragons
Last week: 14
A shock win over the Roosters in round 8 brought hopes of a mid-season revival for Trent Barrett's Bulldogs, but they couldn't back it up against Canberra. A 14-4 defeat continued a worrying attacking trend for the Dogs, who have now scored just 90 points through nine rounds. Still, they have a great chance to rack up some points now -- they have a great draw coming up with matches against the Knights, Tigers and Dragons before they play a Penrith team that will be missing their Origin players in round 13.
This week's opponent: Knights
Last week: 16
With seven straight losses and the worst defensive record in the league there are a lot of obvious negatives for the Knights right now. So let's try to find some positives. Firstly, the cavalry is on its way with eight injured players expected back in the next couple of weeks. Secondly, the draw gets easier soon -- seven of Newcastle's nine opponents so far have been teams in the top half of the ladder. But the men in red and blue really need to get some results in their upcoming run against Canterbury, Brisbane and the Warriors if they are to make anything of this season.
This week's opponent: Bulldogs