Voss: Are the Broncos under pressure?
Andrew Voss wonders why Wayne Bennett will head overseas mid-season, takes a look at the Raiders' X-factor and gives his thoughts on the next big player out of the Super League.
Are the Broncos under pressure?
After three straight losses and some fairly unflattering appraisal from their coach, of course they are.
Nothing is drastic at this stage, but the three heavyweights around them in the Sharks, Storm and Cowboys are playing well and don't look "slump bound" any time soon.
Thursday night is a serious test for Brisbane with Canberra in good form, and capable of posting plenty of points.
And standby for questions to be asked of coach Bennett and his designation of his time if Brisbane lose. With Brisbane to have its first bye, Wayne is due to fly out to the UK to commence duties preparing England for the Four Nations at the end of the season.
Possible scenario: four straight losses and the head coach on other side of the world for the week. Is that a good look?
Who is the Raiders' X factor?
Twenty-two-year-old Joseph Tapine has emerged in the last few weeks as a player impossible to leave out of Canberra's best side.
Watching his talents on show with the Raiders must be making the fans of his former club Newcastle sick.
Opposition defences are struggling to handle this bloke as proven by his most recent matches against the Bulldogs and the Sea Eagles.
Throw in the acquisition of Junior Paulo from Parramatta, the continued good form of Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead, and the damaging Josh Papalii, and you've got one dynamic forward pack.
Have the Warriors turned the corner?
No, they haven't just yet, given that last Saturday's thumping of Brisbane was only their fifth win of the season, but it was mighty impressive.
Straight away, plenty of pundits declared, "here come the Origin-time bullies again!"
And this is the road ahead over that period: Knights away this Saturday, the Roosters in Auckland before Origin II, then a Cronulla side just a few days after the Origin game in Round 16.
Then it's a clash with the Titans in Auckland, before another bye in Round 18, and a post-Origin Three game against Manly over in Perth.
The Warriors forwards haven't run harder all year than they did against Brisbane. Shaun Johnson and Tui Lolohea were superb in attack. That makes for a good start if they can achieve that most weeks.
However Warriors fans beware: they have lost at their previous two visits to Newcastle.
Should Souths' Nathan Brown have been charged?
Yes, and that seemed to be the opinion of everyone who saw last Sunday night's game in Perth, with the exception of the match review committee.
NRL veteran of 330 games Nathan Hindmarsh, speaking on the Matty Johns show on Fox Sports, was adamant it had been a deliberate act of foul play as Brown stomped on Titans forward Agnatius Paasi.
This backed up strong comment earlier in the day from former international Brett Kimmorley.
My concern is, what if such an incident takes place on the bigger stage of State of Origin. Can you imagine the outcry and the pressure on the review panel then? Is the Brown incident now a benchmark?
We'll all move on after this one, but if I'm Nathan Brown, I'm buying myself a lotto ticket!
Can Zak Hardaker be a star in the NRL?
We have plenty of good English players in the NRL currently and I reckon this bloke will only strengthen the list.
With the weekend revelation that he has been placed on a transfer list with the Leeds Rhinos to pursue his NRL dream, I say bring it on.
I know there will be plenty of sceptics after the Warriors experience with Sam Tomkins ended with the Wigan star heading home early, but there were circumstances there.
First and foremost, 24-year-old Hardaker is a very different style of player to Tomkins. He is more of a genuine runner and tackle buster than Tomkins who could jink or step his way through a defence. I think Hardaker could probably slot into any spot from 1 to 5.
Yes, there is some off-field baggage with Zak, but if I'm at an NRL club, I'd be prepared to give the player judged the Man of Steel in the Super League in 2015, a crack.
Do NRL tipsters need a help line?
Yes, and before Round 14 kicks off if possible!!!
If you think you've been tipping fairly well lately, good luck nailing eight out of eight this weekend.
I reckon there are at least five 50/50 games starting with Brisbane v Canberra, Tigers v Rabbitohs, Eels v Titans, Dragons v Bulldogs, and Sharks v Cowboys.
I'm hot on the heels of Yvonne Sampson in the NRL.com tipping competition, but I reckon if I get just five or six right this weekend I'll be very happy.
I have a big weekend of calling coming up on Fox Sports starting with the Broncos against the Raiders on Thursday night. I'll be in the box at Allianz Stadium for the Roosters against the Storm on Saturday night, and back up on Monday for the Dragons v Bulldogs blockbuster at ANZ Stadium.