The North Queensland Cowboys have gone from overachievers to genuine top eight team to possible contenders within the first few months of the 2022 season, while the Canberra Raiders have seemingly turned things around after a rocky start to the year.
Meanwhile Manly could be set for a big slide after Tom Trbojevic's injury.
Here's where your club sits heading into round 12.
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: 1
The premiers are opening up a gap between themselves and the rest of the pack, thumping the Roosters by 20 as their closest rivals slipped up in North Queensland. A Jarome Luai double and a try to Api Koroisau just before halftime gave Penrith an 18-0 advantage at the break and they never looked back, with Stephen Crichton crossing midway through the second half before a couple of consolation tries to the Roosters. The Panthers will be hit hard by Origin in a few weeks but it's hard to see much else slowing them down at this stage.
This week's opponent: Cowboys
Last week: 2
The absence of Ryan Papenhuyzen and Jahrome Hughes are two readymade excuses for Melbourne's shock 36-6 loss to the Cowboys in Townsville -- but if any team is renowned for getting wins regardless of which players are available, it's the Storm. That aura is fading fast now, with Melbourne seemingly just another team that needs most of their big names on board if they are to be anywhere near their best. It'll be interesting to see how they cope with Origin this year.
This week's opponent: Sea Eagles
Last week: 3
After a great start to the season the Sharks have had a rocky few weeks, losing two of their past three games heading into Sunday's visit to the Gold Coast. When they conceded the opening try to the Titans and were level at 6-6 at halftime it looked like another disappointing result could be on the cards. But then Nicho Hynes and Ronaldo Mulitalo engineered a second-half charge with a couple of long-range tries, and debutant speedster Lachlan Miller added a third. Saturday night's clash with the Roosters should be a beauty.
This week's opponent: Roosters
Last week: 4
A win's a win but Parramatta only just got away with victory against Manly after a Tom Trbojevic injury, a Sean Keppie sin-binning and a match-winning sideline conversion from Mitch Moses. It means they've won three and lost three of their past six games, and they'll be desperate to string some consistent form together when they face a resurgent Canberra side this week.
This week's opponent: Raiders
Last week: 6
Among the favourites for the wooden spoon at the start of the year, the Cowboys have stunned the critics with a string of wins -- and their recent form has put paid to the theory that it was all down to an easy draw. They're now on a six-game winning streak and have won the last five by at least 20 points, a stretch that includes genuine thrashings of the Eels and Storm. Both those opponents had injury concerns in those games, but Todd Payten's side is such a well-oiled machine right now it's hard to know whether it would've mattered. The ultimate test comes this week.
This week's opponent: Panthers
Last week: 5
The game-day loss of Adam Reynolds wasn't enough to stop Brisbane's winning streak, with the Broncos hanging in the contest in the first half against Newcastle and blowing the Knights away in the second. Selwyn Cobbo was superb and looks a genuine superstar in the making, Corey Oates and Kotoni Staggs may have played their way into Origin jerseys and there's every chance the Broncos' winning streak keeps on going this week.
This week's opponent: Titans
Last week: 7
After a win over genuine title challengers Parramatta at Magic Round, it looked like the Roosters had turned the corner. A 32-12 thrashing at the hands of Penrith brings them back to square one, with a mediocre 6-5 record through 11 rounds. It's still incredibly hard to get a read on this star-studded but wildly inconsistent team, but Saturday's match with Cronulla is a huge game for them before they lose their Origin stars.
This week's opponent: Sharks
Last week: 10
Canberra has recovered from a five-game losing streak to reel off a three-game winning streak, including excellent 20-point wins over Cronulla and Souths. There are still a lot of question marks about this team -- what's their best forward pack? Who should play fullback? Who should wear the No. 9 ? -- but they're in great form right now and will take some confidence into this week's tough match against Parramatta.
This week's opponent: Eels
9. Sea Eagles
Last week: 8
It doesn't get much more bittersweet than Friday night's performance against the Eels -- a brave display from a team that notoriously struggles against the NRL's elite. They were on track to fix that reputation with a win on Parramatta's turf, leading by a couple of tries with 20 minutes left, when disaster struck. Superstar Tom Trbojevic left the field with a dislocated shoulder, Sean Keppie was sent to the sin bin, and the Eels ran in two converted tries to pip the Sea Eagles by two points. The loss of Trbojevic is the big news though -- it's hard to see Manly doing much without their Dally M-winning talisman, and he's set to miss most or all of the rest of the season. And they play Melbourne next.
This week's opponent: Storm
Last week: 9
The Rabbitohs were blown away by the Raiders in Dubbo on Sunday and found themselves trailing 20-0 at halftime, with the game effectively decided with 40 minutes left. It leaves Souths with five wins and six losses, and heading into a contest with a Wests Tigers side that has already defeated them once this year. Latrell Mitchell can't come back soon enough.
This week's opponent: Wests Tigers
Last week: 11
Not for the first time this season the Titans went into halftime well in the contest against a highly-rated opponent, only to finish with a comprehensive defeat. The visiting Sharks ran away with the game on Sunday in torrential conditions, and the Titans have just one win to show for their past seven matches. They shouldn't need any extra motivation to turn their form around when they face Queensland rivals the Broncos and Cowboys in the next fortnight.
This week's opponent: Broncos
Last week: 12
The Dragons did enough to get the win over the Warriors at Kogarah on Saturday, with Zac Lomax's goal-kicking the difference as the teams scored four tries apiece. It's the fifth time in the past six games they've had a game decided by six points or less (a 36-point thumping at the hands of Melbourne was the exception) but the Dragons are making a habit of winning most of the close ones at least. They'll be expecting to put some distance between themselves and Canterbury this week though.
This week's opponent: Bulldogs
13. Wests Tigers
Last week: 13
The Tigers snapped a three-game losing run by beating the Bulldogs 36-22 on Friday night, with most of the damage done in a four-try first-half blitz. They are a team capable of picking up some wins over the State of Origin period, with games against the Sea Eagles (without Tom Trbojevic), Bulldogs, Warriors and Eels (without Origin stars) coming up after this week's clash with an out-of-form South Sydney.
This week's opponent: Rabbitohs
Last week: 14
It's been a bittersweet week for the struggling Warriors. They matched the Dragons with four tries apiece but lost the game anyway. They welcome back Chanel Harris-Tavita this week, but lose star prop Addin Fonua-Blake for a long-term foot injury -- and will lose Harris-Tavita next season with the young playmaker to take a break from the game. They do at least get a great chance of ending their losing run when they take on Newcastle on Saturday afternoon.
This week's opponent: Knights
Last week: 15
They copped a couple of contentious decisions from the bunker but Newcastle still let a winnable game slip out of their grip in a 36-12 loss at home to the Broncos. They dominated the first half but went into the break at 6-all, and fell apart after Selwyn Cobbo's try was controversially allowed in the 67th minute -- conceding three more times before the final whistle. Anthony Milford looked surprisingly sharp in the first half but ran out of steam well before fulltime and had some costly errors, while Bradman Best is set for a stint on the sidelines after a gruesome elbow injury.
This week's opponent: Warriors
Last week: 16
The Bulldogs tweaked a few things in Mick Potter's first game in charge, and came out firing following his halftime team talk -- outscoring the Tigers 22-16 in the second half with Matt Burton, Jeremy Marshall-King and young outside backs Jacob Kiraz and Aaron Schoupp grabbing tries. Unfortunately they had gone into halftime trailing 18-0. There has been more team list finessing this week as Potter looks to turn things around after the departure of Trent Barrett, with Josh Addo-Carr a key inclusion, but they still have plenty of improving to do.
This week's opponent: Dragons