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The top four is close to settled, but how the bottom half of the eight turns out is still anyone's guess.

A few teams are doing their best to play themselves out of finals contention while others need to keep winning to stay in the race.

1. Penrith Panthers (Last week: 1)

If the top four teams played tomorrow, all fit and in top form, I think the order would be a bit different. But Penrith lead the league and are rolling at the moment. Wondering whether they need to go through a flat patch or face some more adversity.

2. Melbourne Storm (3)

No Cam Smith, no worries. The Storm have a tough draw coming up, but they've been rewarded for their performances over the past month. Let's see how they go under pressure with Smith out.

3. Parramatta Eels (2)

Premiership contenders finish the job when they lead 18-0. Parramatta didn't do that on Sunday. I'm worried about these teams that aren't used to being up the top as they hit a flat patch. The Eels might be about to enter theirs.

4. Sydney Roosters (4)

The Roosters are in a flat spot but I'm not concerned - they go through it every year. I think it's all planned from Trent Robinson and co.

Every try from round 12

5. Canberra Raiders (6)

It wasn't Canberra's best game against North Queensland and they'll know about it this week when they play Penrith. Can't see them falling any deeper than fifth or sixth as they've got so much talent, but we'll see how they go against one of the benchmark teams.

6. Manly Sea Eagles (5)

It looks like Manly are on their way out. Thought they turned a corner in beating the Eels a couple of rounds ago but then they produced a performance against the Panthers that wasn't good enough for a first-grade team. A lot of that was just effort and defensive misreads.

7. Cronulla Sharks (9)

Don't know if they'll make the finals despite three wins on the trot. Cronulla needed to beat Brisbane but had a few excuses with some key players out. They got the job done at the death in a fantastic finish to a scrappy game.

8. Newcastle Knights (7)

Big watch on the Knights, who are potentially playing their way out of the eight. It was a tough ask against the Storm, but their attack looks like it's gone off the boil a bit and they conceded some soft tries. Wondering whether they peaked too early. All that being said, they're still in a strong position to make the finals.

Bellamy confirms Smith will spend time on sidelines

9. South Sydney Rabbitohs (10)

Don't know what to make of South Sydney. Some weeks they beat themselves and it looked like that would be the case when they fell behind against the Dragons. Then they turned it on and scored 32 points. The Rabbitohs are pushing for the bottom half of the eight, but it'll be touch-and-go.

10. Wests Tigers (8)

Michael Maguire summed it up well after the match. He'd be so frustrated. They should have beaten the Warriors. The Tigers thought it was just going to happen and they aren't good enough for that.

11. Canterbury Bulldogs (12)

They showed the character that Trent Barrett will lean on next season by fighting back against the Eels. Having rewatched the game, Canterbury were really good in what could have been a blowout.

Get Caught Up: Round 12

12. New Zealand Warriors (14)

We probably overstate every Warriors win given their predicament, but they were fantastic against a potential top-eight team in the Wests Tigers. They had a nice mix of patience and throwing the ball around.

13. St George Illawarra Dragons (11)

When the season is on the line and you're leading 16-0, there's no excuses for losing. I said they were done last week and nothing's changed to convince me otherwise.

14. North Queensland Cowboys (13)

They should have beaten the Raiders. Just not good enough at the moment. Hopefully, Michael Morgan comes back and gives them an injection in the halves. The weaker sides need to avoid mistakes and unfortunately for the Cowboys, they can't do that.

15. Gold Coast Titans (15)

Coach Justin Holbrook continues to get special efforts out of the team. The Roosters had some players missing on Saturday, but the Titans showed they're molding to Holbrook's liking. He's doing a fantastic job in a tough season.

16. Brisbane Broncos (16)

When you're playing badly, you find a way to lose. Brisbane gave themselves a chance to win but weren't good enough to close it out.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.