The Titans, Dragons and Warriors all had important wins during the major bye round, keeping pace with the top eight sides as the business end of the season draws nearer.
1. Sharks (Last week: 1)
Things are going so right for Cronulla right now that they have managed to move into outright first on the NRL ladder without even playing a game. Well rested after their second bye of the season, the Sharks don't face another top-four club until the Storm in Round 26 and are in the box seat to claim this year's minor premiership.
2. Storm (2)
Usually a loss to the Dragons would have been a disappointing result for a top-four side but in a game in which they were missing Maroons duo Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk as well as rising star Cameron Munster, five-eighth Blake Green and forward Tim Glasby, the makeshift Storm outfit did well to prevent a blowout away from home. It's a result that shouldn't hurt their confidence too much but will also drive the team to get things back on track against the Tigers this week.
3. Cowboys (3)
A bye week, in which the main focus will be on hoping their Origin stars come through unscathed on Wednesday night.
4. Broncos (4)
5. Bulldogs (5)
The bye round has given Brett Morris the time he needed to make his long-awaited return in what should be a significant boost for a Bulldogs side that has lacked the spark needed to string together a consistent run of form.
6. Raiders (6)
Canberra got their first bye out of the way and have another guaranteed two points and six games against bottom-eight teams ahead of them in the run home, meaning they could go a long way to securing a top-eight finish if they can beat the Titans on the Gold Coast this weekend.
7. Titans (8)
Excellent against Manly on Monday night, the Titans are back into the NRL top eight and remain on track to be one of the season's great success stories in a year when few observers would have predicted them to finish any higher than 14th.
8. Panthers (7)
Wins from the Titans, Warriors and Dragons mean Penrith remain deadlocked with those three teams on 16 competition points on the edge of the top eight, and with no byes remaining they'll need to win more than they lose to grab a finals spot by season's end.
9. Warriors (10)
The Warriors have won three straight, albeit with their latest victory being an unconvincing 12-10 escape against a weakened Roosters side in Auckland on Sunday. Shaun Johnson wasn't at full fitness but still produced the match-winning play – also his team's only try of the match – with Issac Luke slotting three key penalty goals for the unusually cautious Warriors.
10. Dragons (11)
St George Illawarra may have been handed a fortunate draw over the Origin period but they've also made the most of it, beating an understrength Storm side this week after defeating a Cowboys outfit missing their Origin players back in Round 12. That result keeps them within touching distance of the top eight and with games against strugglers Newcastle and Manly coming up ahead of a Round 18 bye the Red V should find themselves in a strong position for the run home.
11. Eels (12)
In a week that summed up their season, the Eels enjoyed the on-field success of a comfortable 30-12 victory over the Rabbitohs only to have that triumph overshadowed by off-field dramas – this time with star winger Semi Radradra reportedly keen to exit the club. The performance itself has given Parramatta fans another glimpse of what might have been this season, and at least suggests they'll remain a finals contender in 2017 once this year's salary cap debacle is behind them.
12. Wests Tigers (9)
Wins by bottom-eight rivals have dropped the Tigers down the pecking order after the first of their two byes.
13. Rabbitohs (13)
They were well in the contest at half-time against the Eels at 14-12, but the Rabbitohs leaked 16 unanswered points in the second half to slip further away from the NRL top eight. John Sutton's return was the bright point for a team that missed Origin duo – and first-choice halves combination – Adam Reynolds and Greg Inglis. Next up: the Panthers on Friday night.
14. Sea Eagles (14)
With Jamie Lyon joining an ever-growing casualty ward before kick-off, Manly started brightly on Monday night but once they conceded the first try after 10 minutes they were never really in the contest against the Titans. They've now suffered six straight defeats with Trent Barrett's first year at the club quickly becoming a season to forget.
15. Roosters (15)
With no Boyd Cordner, Aidan Guerra or Mitchell Pearce, the Roosters actually did pretty well to come within two points of a shock result against a Warriors side that had been finding form in recent weeks. Still, a loss is a loss and the Tricolours will be happy to get away from the game for a week with their Round 16 bye, with their chances of pulling off a late-season surge into the finals all but lost.
16. Knights (16)
Even in a bye week the Knights still managed to suffer a blow, with Tariq Sims departing the club for the Dragons, but at least they received the two competition points for the first time since Round 6. The club has been hit by injuries as hard as any other this season and after the bye week a few key players are on track to make their return to the field for Saturday's home clash with the Dragons.