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Best and worst scenarios: Where each team can finish in run home

With six rounds remaining in the 2020 Telstra Premiership, one club has mathematically guaranteed a finals berth while it's about time for the lowest-placed teams to start preparing for Mad Monday.

NRL.com has crunched the numbers on the Ladder Predictor to run the rule over each club's prospects to work out just how safe the current top-eight sides are and which teams still have a chance to push for a finals berth.

In working out the best- and worst-case scenario for each team, we have applied a methodology of all games being decided by a 12-point margin.

This allows a streak of upsets to have a real effect on the ladder, but a team near the bottom with a horrendous differential suddenly winning their last six games by huge points per week has not been taken into account.

Therefore a millions-to-one scenario in which, for example, Souths lose their last six games by at least 17 points per game and the Bulldogs win all of their last six games by at least 17 points per game (which would also require most of the teams currently in the bottom half of the eight to lose most or all of their remaining games) to sneak Canterbury into eighth has not been considered as a real possibility.

The scenarios for all 16 teams

Panthers (currently 1st, 25 points)

Best/worst case: 1st to 8th

No amount of mathematical finagling or unlikely upsets can tip Penrith out of the finals, and they are in the box seat for the minor premiership. Technically they can slip as low as eighth if they don't win another game and other results go against them.

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Fair Dinkum Avenue: If we take a stroll down Fair Dinkum Avenue, Penrith only have two top-eight opponents left in their final six games. They play all three of the current bottom three in the run home. If they win so much as two games out of all that, top four is all but guaranteed.

Even if they somehow didn't win another game, they would need a lot more to go wrong to finish worse than sixth. Top two looks more likely than not.

Storm (second, 24)

Best/worst case: 1st to 8th

The Storm are just a point off first place and can snatch the minor premiership with any sort of stumble from Penrith. Technically they could drop as far as ninth if they lose all their last six games by big margins, the Wests Tigers win all their remaining matches by sizeable scores and a stack of other results go against them.

Even then, they'd only miss out on the playoffs via for and against. Basically they've got about much chance of failing to make the finals as there is of Craig Bellamy going a match without dropping an F-bomb in the coach's box.

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Fair Dinkum Avenue: if we take the next left onto Fair Dinkum Street, the Storm move from this week's trip to face the third-placed Eels this week into five games against teams placed eighth or lower, three of those without travelling. Even two wins from six guarantees a top-four finish.

Eels (third, 22 points)

Best/worst case: 1st to 10th.

The Eels can give their minor premiership hopes a big boost by beating the Storm this week. Currently a win behind second-placed Melbourne, they are slightly more precariously placed than the top two teams and can still slip out of the eight if they lose all their remaining games and a few upsets go against them.

Fair Dinkum Avenue: let's detour down Fair Dinkum Lane for a moment; the Eels aren't missing the finals from here. They still play both teams above them but also have three games against bottom eight sides to come. Worse than fourth would be a surprise, worse than sixth a serious shock.

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Roosters (fourth, 18 points)

Best/worst case: 1st to 12th.

Two wins further back, the Roosters would need serious stumbles from all three teams above them to have a shot at the minor, and if they lose all their remaining games will likely slip out of the top eight without needing other upsets to count against them.

They can actually win one more game (Brisbane, for example) and still miss the finals with no major upsets elsewhere. Their imposing differential will help in the event they finish level with another side.

Fair Dinkum Avenue: just pull over here on Fair Dinkum Road for a moment. The Roosters can't miss the finals can they? After the Tigers and Broncos they finish with four top-eight opponents and half their squad is on the injured list.

Two wins from six should ensure they emerge from the regular season but their current grip on a top-four spot is legitimately precarious if they can't bank a few more wins.

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Raiders (fifth, 18 points)

Best/worst case: 1st to 12th.

Level with the Roosters but with a weaker for-and-against, the Raiders can land anywhere on the ladder above the bottom three. Their fate is very much in their own hands.

They have very winnable games against the Titans and Bulldogs sprinkled with tougher match-ups against the likes of the Roosters and Sharks.

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Fair Dinkum Avenue: let's stop and smell the roses on Fair Dinkum Crescent. The Raiders aren't finishing 13th, or 12th for that matter. With 100+ differential points and four wins to make up on the Panthers, they're not finishing first either.

A couple more wins will ensure a finals finish and a strong run home makes the top four very achievable.

Knights (sixth, 17 points)

Best/worst case: 1st to 14th.

The Knights can mathematically land almost anywhere. With six rounds to go last season they were inside the eight and tumbled to 11th. Four of their last six games are against teams sitting 11th or lower.

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Fair Dinkum Avenue: Let's take the scenic route through Fair Dinkum Esplanade. Top two or bottom six are wildly improbable results from here.

Even two wins from their final six games would mean one of the Tigers and Sea Eagles would have to win five of six (with a few other unfavourable results) to threaten their top-eight spot. They're just a point behind the Roosters so top four is certainly not out of the question if they get a roll on.

Sharks (seventh, 16 points)

Best/worst case: 1st to 14th.

A point behind the Knights and two wins clear of ninth, the Sharks are another team for whom almost any result is still attainable. They've come off a run of games against mostly lower-ranked teams but will do it tougher with the Panthers, Knights, Roosters and Raiders on the run home.

Fair Dinkum Avenue: After a pit stop on Fair Dinkum Drive, we can rule out an unlikely run to the minor premiership for John Morris's men. Even if they win six from six, they would need upsets in their favour elsewhere to creep into the top four.

Barring anything too unusual, even two wins should ensure a finals finish from here.

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Rabbitohs (eighth, 16)

Best/worst case: 1st to 14th.

The third of a trio of teams at the bottom part of the eight who can finish almost anywhere. Would need a hugely improbable run of upsets along with a six-game win streak of their own to get into the top four.

They face three of the top four in the run home, along with three sides currently below them on the ladder. Like every team above them, they can actually lose all six of their remaining games and still cling to a top-eight spot with no major upsets elsewhere, as long as Manly and Wests Tigers don't win more than two games each.

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Fair Dinkum Avenue: While we're admiring the view from Fair Dinkum Parade, let's scratch off a top-four finish for the Bunnies, or anything below 12th. They actually play both of Manly (this week) and the Tigers (in round 18) in two of the most important matches of the season in terms of determining the last couple of finals spots.

Win both, and the bottom half of the eight is all but assured. Lose both and a slip to ninth or 10th is on the cards.

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Wests Tigers (ninth, 12 points)

Best/worst case: 3rd to 16th.

As has been noted, the Tigers have an incredibly tough run home with each of the the top four on their schedule. They can technically climb to third if they win all six remaining games and results go their way, just as they can technically drop to 16th if they lose all their games and the Bulldogs and all three Queensland clubs go on a winning spree.

Fair Dinkum Avenue: I walk this empty street, on the Boulevard of Fair Dinkum, so let's take out a bottom-four finish for the Tigers. Even if they go winless, the Titans would have to win three (with a huge differential reparation) for Michael Maguire's men to go as low as 13th.

Take out top three as well, the Eels and Roosters would both have to go near winless even if the Tigers won all six. The Tigers need a lot to go right just to push for one of the bottom two spots in the eight with seventh to 12th the realistic bracket.

Sea Eagles (10th, 12 points)

Best/worst case: 3rd to 16th.

It's hard to imagine Manly would be in their predicament if talismanic fullback Tom Trbojevic was not one of a host of big names spending significant time on the sidelines. Finals could be slipping away by his estimated round 17 return after games against Souths and the Storm but things get easier after that with the final four matches against lower-placed sides.

Level with the Tigers, it would take an equally unlikely six straight wins or losses, plus a stack of other upsets, to force a finish as high as third or as low as 16th.

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Fair Dinkum Avenue: roaring down Fair Dinkum Highway yelling out the window "Manly can't finish top six". Sorry, Sea Eagles fans but even with six straight wins, the wheels would have to completely fall off the Knights or Raiders for sixth to be even a remote possibility.

By the same token, even six straight losses shouldn't see Manly do worse than 13th.

Dragons (11th, 10 points)

Best/worst case: 4th to 16th

The Dragons have moved to 11th after earning their fifth win of the season last weekend against the Eels. They face all three struggling Queensland teams in succession starting this weekend, before three games against top-six teams to finish.

They can technically still climb as high as fourth or fall as low as last place.

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Fair Dinkum Avenue: I saw a sign on Fair Dinkum Motorway that said "the best hope for Dragons fans is seventh place". Even an unlikely six straight wins only just gets them into the finals zone and even then they need one or two favourable results to be certain of it.

Like the Sea Eagles, 13th is just about a worst-case scenario even with six losses unless all the bottom teams start stringing wins together.

Warriors (12th, 10 points)

Best/worst case: 4th to 16th

The Warriors have done better than plenty expected under extreme adversity this year but it's unlikely to be rewarded with a finals berth. They have four top-eight teams in the run home, although a win this week against the last-placed Bulldogs could set them up for an unlikely finals tilt.

Fair Dinkum Avenue: here on Fair Dinkum Promenade, there's a strong feeling the Warriors need a massive six straight wins just to finish eighth, which puts that at very long odds.

They look to have done enough to avoid the spoon no matter what happens over their final six games but eighth to 15th is about the extent of their bracket from here.

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Titans (13th, 8 points)

Best/worst case: 5th to 16th

The Titans have shown plenty of improvement as the season has gone on, winning four games in total including against both struggling Queensland rivals, in an encouraging sign for the 2021 season.

They have two more games against teams below them this season, and only two against top-eight sides – the Knights and Raiders. Mathematically they can make the finals but would need a lot of luck from other results while the dreaded spoon isn't out of the equation just yet.

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Fair Dinkum Avenue: you can put a red pen through the Titans' 2020 finals hopes, is the general consensus on Fair Dinkum Circuit. Even six straight wins probably only gets them to about ninth without some favourable upsets elsewhere.

Three wins from here would be a great result but still leaves them about three wins short of eighth place. Even one win against Canterbury or Brisbane should be enough to guarantee they stay away from the spoon

Cowboys (14th, 6 points)

Best/worst case: 7th to 16th

A season of promise has really gotten away from the Cowboys, with star recruit Val Holmes largely missing through injury and coach Paul Green departing. Despite winning just three of 14 games, they can sort of technically still squeak into the finals. 

Mathematically. If they win all their games. And a ton of other results go their way.

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Fair Dinkum Avenue: The realistic goal for North Queensland from here, travelling along Fair Dinkum Parade, is avoiding the spoon – which may require a round 25 win over Brisbane to ensure.

They have the Panthers and Storm in the run home, plus two more top-eight opponents. Two wins from their last six looks like a pass mark.

Broncos (15th, 6 points)

Best/worst case: 7th to 16th

Much ink has been spent on Brisbane's season of woe. Their two pre-COVID shutdown wins feel like they happened in another lifetime. Their sole win in 12 games since resumption came against the only team below them on the ladder.

Despite all of that, the NRL.com Ladder Predictor can still find a path – laden with unlikely upsets as it is – into the finals for Brisbane. So you're telling me there's a chance?

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Fair Dinkum Avenue: OK. Let's get on Fair Dinkum Circuit. Brisbane won't be playing finals this year and will be doing well to win another game on current form – which would leave them with a strong chance of finishing the season with the wooden spoon, given their differential is far worse than Canterbury's.

They do have games to come against the Cowboys and Titans and will want to win at least one of them to spare themselves the indignity of the first spoon in club history.

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Bulldogs (16th, 4 points)

Best/worst case: 10th to 16th

It's been a tough year for the Bulldogs, who have shown plenty of grit and been in a lot of games but just haven't been able to produce the wins. An unlikely six straight wins won't get them to the finals with 10th as good as it gets for them on the NRL.com Ladder Predictor.

Fair Dinkum Avenue: parked in Fair Dinkum Cul-De-Sac, Canterbury's best hope of avoiding the spoon from here is to down the Titans in round 17 or the injury-hit Warriors this week and hope Brisbane don't win another game. Anything better than 15th from here would be a surprise result.

 

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