TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 18: Reece Robson of the Cowboys celebrates after scoring a try during the round six NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Canterbury Bulldogs at QCB Stadium, on April 18, 2021, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Round 22 is in the books and there are just three rounds remaining in the 2022 NRL season before the finals kick-off.

As the race for the top four, finals and wooden spoon narrows, Zero Tackle has cast its eye over every remaining fixture to determine the best and worst possible finish, as well as the likely finish for your team.

As it stands, here is the current ladder at the end of Round 22.

  WLPTS+/-
1PEN20442306
2CRO18638209
3NQL17736272
4PAR16834119
5MEL15932247
6SYD15932201
7SOU141030130
8CBR14103063
9BRI131128-36
10STI121226-100
11MAN91520-105
12CAN71716-192
13GLD61814-205
14NEW61814-290
15NZW61814-292
16WST42010-327

For the purposes of this exercise, we have set the maximum for and against turnaround between two clubs over a three-week period at 120 - 40 points per week. Anything over that mark will be considered impossible.

1. Penrith Panthers

Current ladder position: 1st, 38 points, F/A + 298
Remaining matches: South Sydney Rabbitohs (away), New Zealand Warriors (home), North Queensland Cowboys (away)
Best possible finish: 1st
Worst possible finish: 2nd
Likely finish: 1st

The Panthers are in the grips of a late-season injury and suspension crisis, with Jarome Luai and Liam Martin both racing the clock to be fit for the finals, while Nathan Cleary is suspended until the end of the regular season.

Their troubles were laid bare against the Storm on Thursday evening as they were held scoreless for the first time since Round 13, 2015 - also funnily enough against the Storm.

Despite that, their form has been so excellent this season that they only need one more victory to take the minor premiership mathematically. Even now, the Cowboys would need to win three from three and have a for and against turnaround of 90 points across those games.

The Sharks could also technically catch the Panthers, but would need a for and against turn around of 161 points across the final three weeks, making it all but impossible.

Realistically though, even if the Panthers can't overcome the Rabbitohs and Cowboys without their stars, they should snag a win at home against the Warriors and lock up their second minor premiership in three years.

NRL Rd 1 - Panthers v Sea Eagles

2. North Queensland Cowboys

Current ladder position: 2nd, 32 points, F/A + 208
Remaining matches: New Zealand Warriors (home), South Sydney Rabbitohs (away), Penrith Panthers (home)
Best possible finish: 1st
Worst possible finish: 7th
Likely finish: 3rd

The Cowboys could finish anywhere between first and seventh, creating a window of uncertainty, particularly given the performance they dished up against the Roosters on Saturday.

Two home games against the Warriors and Panthers should help them on the run to the finish line, while an away trip to play the in-form Rabbitohs won't be straightforward.

To fall as low as seventh, plenty of things would need to go wrong, with the Cowboys losing all three backed up by the Sharks winning at least one, the Storm winning against the Roosters but losing to the Broncos and Eels while keeping their for and against ahead of the Cowboys, while the Rabbitohs, Broncos and Eels would all have to win at least two with a for and against turnaround.

If the Cowboys were to lose all three, the more likely result is that they'd be overtaken by the Sharks and Storm, with the Rabbitohs also a chance, but fall no lower than fifth.

Assuming they win the two games at home though, they should cling to third spot.

3. Cronulla Sharks

Current ladder position: 3rd, 32 points, F/A + 137
Remaining matches: Manly Sea Eagles (away), Canterbury Bulldogs (home), Newcastle Knights (away)
Best possible finish: 2nd
Worst possible finish: 7th
Likely finish: 2nd

The Sharks' run to the finish line in 2022 is as simple as it gets, with games against the Bulldogs and Knights in the final two weeks.

They play the Manly Sea Eagles this weekend, but that is a trip they will take with trepidation given their well-noted horror record at Brookvale, having lost their last seven at the venue.

Still, their form is good enough that they should be able to overcome the Sea Eagles, break the hoodoo and win their last three games of the season.

That would be enough to jump the Cowboys based on the predictions of them losing to the Rabbitohs, however, a finish in either second or third spot is in there for Cronulla if they're good enough.

If things go pear-shaped then, like the Cowboys, they could finish as low as seventh - something that simply shouldn't happen. To lose a qualifying final and the valuable second chance, slipping to fifth, they would need to lose two of their last three to be jumped by one of the Rabbitohs, Broncos or Eels - as well as the Storm directly behind them.

NRL Rd 5 - Sharks v Wests Tigers

4. Melbourne Storm

Current ladder position: 4th, 30 points, F/A + 211
Remaining matches: Brisbane Broncos (away), Sydney Roosters (home), Parramatta Eels (away)
Best possible finish: 2nd
Worst possible finish: 8th
Likely finish: 4th

The Storm could still climb as high as second on the table despite their average run of form, which has also included a four-match losing streak in recent weeks.

For that to happen though, they'd need to win all three, while the Sharks and Cowboys both drop at least one game, which would wind all three teams up on 36. Melbourne's superior for and against could then land them in second spot.

Should the Storm only win two of their last three - which is what is to be expected, beating the Broncos and Roosters, but potentially struggling against the Eels on the road - then they'd need the Sharks and Cowboys to drop two games each, something that appears unlikely.

If the Storm were to really fall apart and lose all three, they could drop to the back-end of the top eight, although they'd need the Rabbitohs, Broncos and Eels to all realistically win two, while the Roosters would have to win all three, setting up an incredibly specific run of results required given the Rabbitohs play the Roosters, and the Broncos play the Eels.

5. South Sydney Rabbitohs

Current ladder position: 5th, 28 points, F/A + 134
Remaining matches: Penrith Panthers (home), North Queensland Cowboys (home), Sydney Roosters (home)
Best possible finish: 2nd
Worst possible finish: 8th
Likely finish: 6th

The Rabbitohs have all but mathematically booked their spot in this year's top eight, and only a calamity could prevent them from playing finals football.

Should the Rabbitohs lose all three games, the Broncos and Eels win at least one, the Roosters win at least two and the Raiders all three, they could technically fall to ninth, but would need a for and against turnaround of 157 points, so we are happy to confirm South Sydney's spot in the top eight.

The Rabbitohs could still climb as high as second with three from three, but a difficult run home should put paid to that - and of course they'd need the teams ahead of them in Melbourne, Cronulla and North Queensland to fall apart. Their own high for and against does keep them in the hunt for a qualifying final though.

If they were to win three from three, then they could move ahead of Melbourne given their difficult run home, however, it's the last round game against the Roosters which seems the unlikely one at the moment, while a win over Penrith is no sure thing.

That said, even two wins puts them under the pump to hang onto fifth ahead of the Broncos.

NRL Rd 3 - Rabbitohs v Roosters

6. Brisbane Broncos

Current ladder position: 6th, 28 points, F/A + 69
Remaining matches: Melbourne Storm (home), Parramatta Eels (home), St George Illawarra Dragons (away)
Best possible finish: 2nd
Worst possible finish: 9th
Likely finish: 5th

The Broncos, like the Rabbitohs could climb as high as second place, however, like the Rabbitohs ahead of them, they'd need the Cowboys, Sharks and Storm to lose heavily, and in an added twist, the Rabbitohs to also not win three from three given the current for and against differential between the sides.

Brisbane's run home is by no means simple, and given they are still in reach of the Raiders - albeit on an enormous for and against turnaround - they could still miss the top eight.

However, two of their tough games remaining against Parramatta and Melbourne are both at home, meaning they would be disappointed not to snag at least one, and maybe two wins, before travelling to play the Dragons in the season's final round.

They aren't going to jump the Storm if they wind up tied on points - and that's the exact prediction being made here - but it will be enough to jump the Rabbitohs and finish in fifth.

7. Parramatta Eels

Current ladder position: 7th, 28 points, F/A + 28
Remaining matches: Canterbury Bulldogs (home), Brisbane Broncos (away), Melbourne Storm (home)
Best possible finish: 2nd
Worst possible finish: 9th
Likely finish: 7th

The Eels, like the teams ahead of them in Brisbane and South Sydney, can get to 34 points and finish second, but it's an unlikely event with plenty needing to happen to climb that high on the table.

The Eels' lower for and against - and a difficult run home with a trip to Brisbane and the Storm on their calendar - means they could yet drop out of the top eight if the Raiders manage to win all three and the Roosters also go ahead of them.

A win against the Bulldogs will be critical to ease any pressure they could be under during the final weeks of the season, with a single win likely enough to keep them ahead of the Raiders and in the finals - a place they deserve to be despite some inconsistent form.

8. Sydney Roosters

Current ladder position: 8th, 26 points, F/A + 121
Remaining matches: Wests Tigers (home), Melbourne Storm (away), South Sydney Rabbitohs (home)
Best possible finish: 2nd
Worst possible finish: 10th
Likely finish: 8th

The Roosters excellent for and against given where they are on the ladder means they can still finish second - although it's pure mathematical anomalies that would allow them to do so. They'd need the Cowboys and Sharks to lose all three, the Storm to lose two of their three, and then the Rabbitohs, Broncos and Eels to lose at least one, while the Roosters themselves win all three.

It's pie in the sky stuff, but still possible.

Of far greater concern to the tri-colours is the fact they can still miss the finals. The Raiders are only two points behind them, although we have written the Manly Sea Eagles off based on the 120-point for and against rule.

A run home featuring the Tigers, Storm and Rabbitohs should allow the Roosters to finish in the top eight, although an easy Raiders run home means they will need to win two games - and that's what we reckon they will do.

That Round 25 clash with the Rabbitohs could yet decide if they qualify though.

NRL Rd 6 - Roosters v Warriors

9. Canberra Raiders

Current ladder position: 9th, 24 points, F/A - 31
Remaining matches: Newcastle Knights (away), Manly Sea Eagles (home), Wests Tigers (home)
Best possible finish: 6th
Worst possible finish: 11th
Likely finish: 9th

The Raiders are the last team from outside the current top eight who can play finals football this season, but they'll need plenty to fall in their favour if they are going to.

The team they are most likely to knock out are the Roosters, although they could also technically catch the Eels and Rabbitohs if things went seriously well, potentially securing an elimination final at home, although that would be only if every result went their way.

A run home against the Knights, Sea Eagles and Tigers could see them take three from three though and go to 30 points on the table.

That seems like the likely scenario, but in a twist from most years when 12 wins is enough to make the finals, they will still miss out this year with the Roosters also likely to finish on 30, but with a far superior for and against.

Still, it proves the pressure on the Roosters, with an extra slip up potentially moving the green machine into the finals.

The Raiders could still be leapfrogged by the Sea Eagles and Dragons to finish as low as 11th if they stumble themselves during the final weeks of the season.

10. Manly Sea Eagles

Current ladder position: 10th, 20 points, F/A - 28
Remaining matches: Cronulla Sharks (home), Canberra Raiders (away), Canterbury Bulldogs (away)
Best possible finish: 9th
Worst possible finish: 11th
Likely finish: 11th

Under the 120-point for and against turnaround rule we have imposed for this calculation, the Sea Eagles' season is done and dusted after a horror loss on Sunday against the Titans.

They could still make the finals, but it is incredibly unlikely - even more so when you consider they have to play the in-form Sharks and Raiders away during the last three weeks.

Their form makes three from three an unlikely result, and even then, it's likely they'd only sneak up to ninth spot on the table.

The Sea Eagles could also fall a spot down as well, with the Dragons equal on points but behind on for and against. Two wins could be enough to hang onto tenth, but one probably won't be.

NRL Rd 1 - Panthers v Sea Eagles

11. St George Illawarra Dragons

Current ladder position: 11th, 20 points, F/A - 130
Remaining matches: Gold Coast Titans (home), Wests Tigers (away), Brisbane Broncos (home)
Best possible finish: 9th
Worst possible finish: 14th
Likely finish: 10th

We are willing to consider some insane for and against turnarounds for the purpose of this exercise, but not in this instance - the Dragons are now 251 points behind on that count compared to the Roosters and their chances of making the finals went up in smoke in the nation's capital on Sunday afternoon.

The Dragons can still catch the Raiders and Sea Eagles, and will be looking to finish the year on a high note as they build to 2023 - although last couple of weeks have been incredibly poor for Anthony Griffin's side.

The Titans, Tigers and Broncos present a run home where they should be able to win at least two matches, which could be enough to go past the Sea Eagles.

They could yet slip into the bottom four given their incredibly poor for and against. A single win would mean they avoid that fate, however, if they don't win any, then three from three for any of the Bulldogs, Warriors or Knights would see the Dragons lose ground on the final table.

12. Canterbury Bulldogs

Current ladder position: 12th, 14 points, F/A - 141
Remaining matches: Parramatta Eels (away), Cronulla Sharks (away), Manly Sea Eagles (home)
Best possible finish: 11th
Worst possible finish: 16th
Likely finish: 13th

The Bulldogs will be looking to escape the bottom four on the final ladder for the first time in many years following a form turnaround after Trent Barrett left his job as head coach earlier this year.

While they still could win the wooden spoon, it would require a disaster to fall that far down the table.

Given the Warriors and Knights are equal with them on points however, the chance of falling back into the bottom four with their tough run home against the Eels, Sharks and Sea Eagles is quite high.

NRL Rd 8 - Bulldogs v Roosters

13. New Zealand Warriors

Current ladder position: 13th, 14 points, F/A - 213
Remaining matches: North Queensland Cowboys (away), Penrith Panthers (away), Gold Coast Titans (home)
Best possible finish: 11th
Worst possible finish: 16th
Likely finish: 12th

The Warriors, like the Bulldogs, will be looking to escape the bottom four and give their fans something to cheer about ahead of their permanent move back to Auckland in 2023.

While the next two games against the Cowboys and Panthers appear unwinnable, that won't drop them down the ladder, and a final round game against the Titans at home is one the club simply have to win to provide some expectation of hope heading into 2023.

That win alone should be enough to see the Warriors escape the bottom four.

14. Newcastle Knights

Current ladder position: 14th, 14 points, F/A - 252
Remaining matches: Canberra Raiders (home), Gold Coast Titans (away), Cronulla Sharks (home)
Best possible finish: 11th
Worst possible finish: 16th
Likely finish: 14th

The Knights, like the Bulldogs and Warriors ahead of them, could still ultimately wind up with the wooden spoon, although would need to lose two of their games and have both the Titans and Tigers win at least two.

A significantly poor for and against - one that is unlikely to be improved during the final three weeks with matches against the Raiders, Titans and Sharks - leaves them vulnerable to picking up the bogey prize if the Tigers and Titans can find some late-season consistency - something both clubs have threatened to do in recent times.

Still, with a tough run home, climbing the table seems an improbability, although they are tied on points with the Warriors and Bulldogs and one win more than those sides are able to claim would push them up the table.

15. Gold Coast Titans

Current ladder position: 15th, 10 points, F/A - 196
Remaining matches: St George Illawarra Dragons (away), Newcastle Knights (home), New Zealand Warriors (away)
Best possible finish: 12th
Worst possible finish: 16th
Likely finish: 15th

The Titans have moved out of last spot on the competition table with a shock Sunday win over the Sea Eagles, but it's only on for and against, meaning they will be desperate to find another win down the final stretch to avoid the dreaded wooden utensil.

They can still technically finish as high as 12th if things go perfectly, and matches against the Dragons, Knights at home and Warriors all seem winnable enough for the Titans to potentially finish the season with a flourish ahead of the twin arrivals of Kieran Foran and Sam Verrills next year.

16. Wests Tigers

Current ladder position: 16th, 10 points, F/A - 216
Remaining matches: Sydney Roosters (away), St George Illawarra Dragons (home), Canberra Raiders (home)
Best possible finish: 12th
Worst possible finish: 16th
Likely finish: 16th

While the Tigers can't possibly go any lower than they currently are, they could find a way to move up the table a few spots during the final weeks of the season.

Matches against the Roosters, Dragons and Raiders will be less than straightforward, however, the final two present an opportunity for victory in the fight to avoid the spoon - a position they currently occupy on for and against following the Titans' shock win on the weekend over the Sea Eagles.

Predicted final ladder

1. Penrith Panthers - 40 points
2. Cronulla Sharks - 38 points
3. North Queensland Cowboys - 36 points
4. Melbourne Storm - 34 points
5. Brisbane Broncos - 34 points
6. South Sydney Rabbitohs - 32 points
7. Parramatta Eels - 32 points
8. Sydney Roosters - 30 points
9. Canberra Raiders - 30 points
10. St George Illawarra Dragons - 24 points
11. Manly Sea Eagles - 22 points
12. New Zealand Warriors - 16 points
13. Canterbury Bulldogs - 14 points
14. Newcastle Knights - 14 points
15. Gold Coast Titans - 12 points
16. Wests Tigers - 10 points

Predicted Week 1 finals

Qualifying final 1: Penrith Panthers (1) vs Melbourne Storm (4)
Qualifying final 2: Cronulla Sharks (2) vs North Queensland Cowboys (3)
Elimination final 1: Brisbane Broncos (5) vs Sydney Roosters (8)
Elimination final 2: South Sydney Rabbitohs (6) vs Parramatta Eels (7)