Here's what nine-time NFR heeler Cesar de la Cruz says the best in the world need to do to clinch a gold buckle or win big money in the last two rounds of the 2018 Wrangler NFR.

Round 9 is the last run on the best set of steers in the bunch. It's the same round in which Chad Masters and Jade Corkill broke the world record in 2009, and it's do-or-die time for everyone who wants a shot at a gold buckle Saturday night. 

Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira

Round 7: 5.2

Round Winnings: --

Total NFR Earnings: $64,012.81 each

World Standings Earnings: $178,964 (Driggers); $179,948.33 (Nogueira)

Average: 2

World Standings: 2

de la Cruz's take: They're second in the average. They're my pick. Tsinigine and Trey will win the average, but those guys have been my pick from the start of the winter. They're roping really well, they jackpot well, they're good everywhere. It's their year to win it. They're going to go for the rounds. They are one of the fastest teams going, so they're going to put the pressure on them. They're going to go at these next two. He knows he has to go at these next two and be 3 on these next two. He can do it. It's a beautiful situation right now because he wants it so bad. He's got his back against the wall with the best guys in the world, it's almost better for him. The steers will get you, the small barn will get you if you're just trying to make a good safe run. There won't be any safety in them. Their chemistry, and their partnership, will get them a world title. 

Clay Smith and Paul Eaves

Round 7: 4.1

Round Winnings: $15,794.87

Total NFR Earnings: $97,576.92

World Standings Earnings: $212,921.47 each

Average: 4, 26.00/6

World Standings: 1

take: They aren't going anywhere. When they do catch, they're winning something. They can't back off at all, and needing to win something will help them. They've got to try to go for first. They have the momentum of last night. They have won $97k here already. They each had a bobble, and it will make them keep paying attention. It's Kaleb and Junior's to win but Paul and Clay won't make it easy on them. Dealing with these guys all year then sitting at home and watching them, they're just such a great team together. 

Aaron Tsinigine and Trey Yates

Round 6: 6.10

Round Winnings: --

Total NFR Earnings: $54,423.08 each

World Standings Earnings: $138,467.57 (Tsinigine); $152,862.02 (Yates)

Average: 1, 59.40/8

World Standings: 9 (Tsinigine); 6 (Yates)

de la Cruz's take: Trey and Tsinigine are going to try to hold their average, and you never know about trying to play it safe in that building. If they were to have gone and won a day money, they'd have been way up there. They're safetied up right now. They're in a tough spot. They have to just catch the next two, and if they can draw the loper to get a day money, that will help. They're still my pick for the average. Trey has dealt with pressure his whole life to get to this level. He's not allowed to miss in the horse show world. He's dealt with that before. I'd like them to draw the loper and get a day money and have a real shot tomorrow night. 

Dustin Egusquiza and Kory Koontz

Round 6: 4.10

Round Winnings: $15,794.87 each

Total NFR Earnings: $39,131.79 each

World Standings Earnings: $145,517.82 each

Average: 13, 26.90/4

World Standings: 6 (Egusquiza); 9 (Koontz)

de la Cruz's take: I've been where they are, and I understand. They got into the quicksand. The harder they fought, the deeper they got. They pressed too much a few times. And then last night, they let the run come together and made a good run. When you try to force the issue, you get in a problem over there. There's got to be a happy medium. 

Chad Masters and Joseph Harrison

Round 6: 3.90 +30

Round Winnings: --

Total NFR Earnings: $50,615.39 each

World Standings Earnings: $135,957.53 (Masters); $155,130.43 (Harrison)

Average: 8, 70.00/6

World Standings: 10 (Masters), 3 (Harrison)

de la Cruz's take: Last night, that steer hit funny. It kind of took a quick hop. Joseph was so far ahead of him he heeled the tar right out of him. From my perspective, the flagger isn't in the right spot. If the heel horse can block the heel shot, they'll call you out. If the flagger had been on the far corner of the arena, where he could see the whole run come together, he'd been in a different situation. They've had bad luck—that's Vegas. If you're not drawing at the better end of the steers, it's hard over there. It's easy to tell in the roughstock because the stock has names and stats and everyone knows them, but it's the same in the timed-event. 

Clay Tryan and Travis Graves

Round 6: NT

Round Winnings: --

Total NFR Earnings: $25,794.87 each

World Standings Earnings: $122,784.90 (Tryan); $118,927.76 (Graves)

Average: 15, 23.80/3

World Standings: 11

de la Cruz's take: They're a huge spoiler team. Travis is one of the most consistent heelers in the world, and Clay is a dominant force. He's got three gold buckles, and he's won everything at the jackpots and rodeos. They need to make money. They'll be going at them. They'll be spoilers from way back and could keep Driggers and Junior and Smith and Eaves from getting day money. 

Cody Snow and Wesley Thorp

Round 6: 4.10

Round Winnings: $15,794.87 each

Total NFR Earnings: $64,294.87 each

World Standings Earnings: $156,157.60 (Snow); $152,468.27 (Thorp)

Average: 5, 34.00/6

World Standings: 4 (Snow); 7 (Thorp)

de la Cruz's take: Wesley is on Dustin Searcy's heel horse—one of my favorites going down the road. That's a cool animal. I feel Wesley's mounted really well, so if Cody can get a good start, he has amazing game to be fast. I thought they'd do better this week, but Vegas is a funny place. 

Derrick Begay and Cory Petska

Round 6: NT

Round Winnings: --

Total NFR Earnings: $59,711.54 each

World Standings Earnings: $144,548.69 (Begay); $151,005.57 (Petska)

Average: 7, 46.10/6

World Standings: 7 (Begay); 8 (Petska)

de la Cruz's take: They would have got a round-win last night if they'd have gotten that loop locked off. Begay spun a great steer last night. If they can get some good goes, they'll be spoilers for the guys at the top. What they did later on in the season was unbelievable, and they'll dang sure be spoilers for the world title. 

Bubba Buckaloo and Chase Tryan

Round 6: 3.6

Round Winnings: $26,230.77 each

Total NFR Earnings: $86,083.33 each

World Standings Earnings: $174,951.32 (Buckaloo); $154,367.14 (Tryan)

Average: 11, 17.20/4

World Standings: 3 (Buckaloo), 4 (Tryan)

de la Cruz's take: Chase has been there, but Bubba hasn't. Their spirits are high and they'll have something to say about the gold buckle. These top teams have to have day money. And those guys from the bottom of the pack are spoilers. They are out of the average, and they know now if they have any possible shot at a world title, they have to go at them for the day money. Confidence is huge going into that place. If you can have some confidence going into the next round, it turns out really good. The guys fighting it are the ones struggling. 

Luke Brown and Jake Long

Round 6: NT

Round Winnings: --

Total NFR Earnings: $71,134.61 each

World Standings Earnings: $154,236.78 each

Average: 10, 17.00/4

World Standings: 5

de la Cruz's take: They're extremely fast. They can win some day money and be in it. They've just had bad luck this week, and it's so unlike them. They're out of their groove. 

Riley and Brady Minor

Round 6: --

Round Winnings: --

Total NFR Earnings: $57,807.69 each

World Standings Earnings: $139,361.44 (Riley); $138,168.82 (Brady)

Average: 12, 22.00/4

World Standings: 8 (Riley); 9 (Brady)

de la Cruz's take: A few bad breaks and a few bad steers have taken their confidence. They're so deadly and so consistently fast. It's kind of cool Riley has Bob—the best horse going. They were one of my picks, and I feel bad about their luck. 

Erich Rogers and Clint Summers

Round 6: 4.2

Round Winnings: $6,769.23 each

Total NFR Earnings: $36,865.38 each

World Standings Earnings: $105,219.60 (Rogers); $116,332.35 (Summers)

Average: 6, 40.30/6

World Standings: 14 (Rogers); 12 (Summers)

de la Cruz's take: Every one of these teams are capable of being 3. I knew Clint would heel real sharp. He's got good confidence, good heel horses and a good head on his shoulders. I felt they'd be a good average team. I thought Clint would catch every one Rogers spun for him. Rogers had tough luck and has been missing the barrier. That puts them in the long-4  or 5-second zone. They'll connect the next two nights and be a headache for the teams trying to win the day money to win the world. 

Tyler Wade and Cole Davison

Round 6: NT

Round Winnings: --

Total NFR Earnings: $36,230.77 each

World Standings Earnings: $109,375.79 (Wade); $102,482.34 (Davison)

Average: 14, 21.90/3

World Standings: 13 (Wade); 14 (Davison)

de la Cruz's take: They've got a round win and they're so fast. Cole has that great heel horse he got from Rhen Richard. Don't count them out for the day money. TWade is super fast so if they connect they'll have a chance for the day money. 

Lane Ivy and Buddy Hawkins

Round 6: 4.60 +10

Round Winnings: --

Total NFR Earnings: $47,230.77 each

World Standings Earnings: $114,688.38 (Ivy); $111,681.78 (Hawkins)

Average: 9, 45.40/5

World Standings: 12 (Ivy); 13 (Hawkins)

de la Cruz's take: He's tapped off with what he needs to do. He figured out how to go fast. They will be heartbreakers because the top guys need to win first and second to win the world, and guys like Ivy are going for the day-money. 

Rhen Richard and Quinn Kesler

Round 6: 4.60

Round Winnings: $4,230.77

Total NFR Earnings: $31,788.46 each

World Standings Earnings: $97,020.48 (Richard); $93,137.22 (Kesler)

Average: 3, 54.50/7

World Standings: 15

de la Cruz's take: Quinn is heeling sharp. He's had some of the tougher goes out there. That's why Rhen switched horses. They get smart in the buildings, and as deep as he is in the average, he doesn't want to risk losing his rope and making it too hard on his heeler. He did a good job switching. It was a more controlled run. It's going to come down to these next two rounds to make good runs in both events. 

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