Are the wheels falling off? Three losses from their last four games would suggest there are some cracks appearing in the Storm juggernaut. But with Origin now over, a kind draw and plenty of points in the bank already, Craig Bellamy's side will definitely finish in the top four and should keep the JJ Giltinan Shield down south. The real test begins in the finals and trying to avoid another shock exit before the grand final.
The hottest side in the NRL right now. Six wins in a row and playing an attractive brand of football means Des Hasler's side are no longer under the radar. While there were doubts over their halves and ability to score points early in the season, no one is doubting the Bulldogs' credentials as a genuine title threat now. Might not win enough games to win the minor premiership but should finish in the top four.
There are some still waiting for Cronulla's bubble to burst but it won't happen. The Sharks only play one side currently in the top eight in their next five games so will secure enough wins to qualify for the finals for the first time in four years. The real test comes in their last three games when they play the Rabbitohs, Storm and Cowboys which could determine whether they can earn a coveted top four berth.
A lot will depend on how Brisbane's stars pull-up after the gruelling Origin period. The Broncos had seven players in the interstate decider and coach Anthony Griffin will be praying for no post-Origin hangover. If they can get through the next month - against sides all currently outside the top eight - they should finish in the top four. Definitely possess the pace, power and class in their side to take out the premiership.
The ominous sign surrounding the Sea Eagles is they have only had their strongest side on the park once this season - back in round one - and they are still well-placed for an assault on the title. If they can get all the big games on the park in the next couple of weeks there is no reason why they won't be the first side in almost 20 years to defend their premiership. Still have to play the Bulldogs and Broncos at Brookvale which will have a bearing on whether they make the top four or have to settle for fifth spot.
Souths will play finals football for just the second time since 1989 after a sensational season so far. Long-suffering Rabbitohs fans are beginning to think this may well be their year for the title and it must be said the Bunnies are serious contenders. Only play three top-eight sides in the run home so are a real chance to jump into the top four by the end of the season. From there, anything is possible.
The next month will determine the Cowboys' fate. The Storm, Tigers, Bulldogs, Sea Eagles and Warriors await Neil Henry's side and they will need to win at least a couple of those to cement their spot in the top eight. Could get swept up in the battle for a position at the bottom half of the eight if they aren't careful but hard to see them make a push for the top four. But with the likes of Thurston, Bowen, Scott, Tamou and Tate in their side, the Cowboys can't be written off no matter where they finish.
The Warriors are the hardest team to get a read on in the run home. On their day there is no tougher side to face but when they're off they would struggle to beat Parramatta. The fact they are currently in eighth spot and haven't yet played near their potential spells danger for their finals rivals. Always hard to beat at home, their top eight fate could well be decided on the road with tricky games against the Broncos, Sea Eagles, Cowboys and Dragons. Likely to go head-to-head with the Wests Tigers for the last spot in the playoffs.
After starting the season as premiership favourites, the Tigers now have a huge battle on their hands just to make the finals. Three losses in a row has the joint-venture club going in the wrong direction at the most important stage of the season. They won seven in a row earlier this season so have the ability to get on a roll again, but will need to swing the momentum around quickly. Gareth Ellis' impending return could be pivotal and may just be the boost they need to make the finals.
It's been a tough introduction to NRL coaching for rookie Dragons boss Steve Price and it's not going to end with a finals appearance. With games against the Sharks, Rabbitohs and Storm in the next three weeks, they could be officially out of the running with more than a month left. The Dragons still have one of the toughest defences in the competition to break down but just don't have the firepower to win games regularly. Will need to rethink their attack if they are to challenge again next season.
There always seems to be one side that emerges after the Origin period to come from nowhere and make a late charge for the finals. The Raiders could well be that team in 2012. The Green Machine have won two on the bounce - including a last-start thrashing of league leaders Melbourne - to sit just two points outside the top eight. They have the easiest run-in of all the sides battling for a finals berth, with five of those in the arctic conditions in Canberra. They are a smokey for the last spot in the eight but it will be tough.
Have a favourable draw but the Roosters simply aren't playing well enough to make a serious play for the top eight. And in truth, some of the performances from Brian Smith's side in recent weeks proves they aren't ready for finals football anyway. Another three wins would make it a respectable season for the Tri-Colours, who should start planning to make an impact in 2013 when they will have the likes of James Maloney - and possibly Sonny Bill Williams - in their line-up.
The Titans will be left to rue their poor start to the season. Have improved significantly over the last two months but have given themselves too much work to do to make a push for the finals. They can start planning their end-of-season trip for September with a loss against Canberra this weekend. With home games against the Broncos, Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs, the Titans can still have a role to play in determining where some sides will finish in the top eight.
Knights fans should be thankful Parramatta are so bad otherwise it could be them in danger of finishing with the wooden spoon. Wayne Bennett will miss the finals as a coach for the first time since 1991, with the Knights needing to win seven of their last eight to make what would be an incredible run for the top eight. With seven of those games against sides currently in the eight it simply won't happen. I wonder what Nathan Tinkler is thinking about his $1million-a-season investment in Bennett now?
Round 26 can't come soon enough for the Panthers. Not only have they suffered poor results in 2012 but there have been plenty of unwanted headlines emanating out of the club and now their best player Luke Lewis announces he's leaving at the end of the season. The only goal for the rest of the campaign will be winning enough matches to stay ahead of the Eels and avoid the spoon in Ivan Cleary's first season in charge.
Odds-on favourites to finish with the wooden spoon. The Eels have endured a horror season and it seems a formality they will finish last for the first time in 40 years. With matches against top four sides Canterbury, Melbourne and Brisbane in the next three weeks, Eels fans can get set for more pain before the season is out. Let's hope the Parramatta players can lift their game over the next two months because claiming the timber utensil would be a sad way for retiring veterans Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt to exit the game.