When "Dancing With The Stars" 2016 began back on Sept. 12, oddsmakers picked Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy to win the shimmering Mirrorball Trophy at season's end. So will the charmed "DWTS" duo waltz away as season 23's champions during the Nov. 22 finale results show, or might another couple swoop in to take the title?

Assessing Laurie Hernandez and Val Chmerkovskiy's 'DWTS' season

Hernandez and Chmerkovskiy began "DWTS" 2016 in predictable fashion by scoring a tie for the top spot on Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, and Julianne Hough's leaderboard with their show-closing week one "American Girl" cha cha cha.

They went on to top the leaderboard a whopping five additional times as the season progressed, a number which only IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess --who will likely serve as Hernandez and Chmerkovskiy's stiffest competition for the "DWTS" 2016 title-- came close to matching. (Hinchcliffe and Burgess notched four top placements of their own.)

They brought to life a succession of memorable routines, including one that was perhaps the most notable of all: their week four jazz routine to Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel."

Thanks to their succession of well-received dances, Hernandez and Chmerkovskiy have amassed the highest total of judges' points with 428, though Hinchcliffe and Burgess aren't far behind with 425.

After posting a field-best 60 points last week, they hold a slim advantage over --once again-- Hinchcliffe and Burgess, who finished a single point behind with 59.

'Dancing with the Stars' production machinations?

Although Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy have performed consistently well, it could be argued that they've had a little help from "DWTS" production. They've danced last --the spot in the running order that tends to be reserved for the favored or most currently newsworthy contestant-- a field-most four times throughout the season, but have only performed first --when the panelists tend to be pickier and stingier with scores-- a single time.

It's virtually impossible to know if their scores would have changed had the running order been different, but it could well have affected the standings.

So will Laurie Hernandez and Valentin Chmerkovskiy win "Dancing with the Stars" 2016? They very well could, but victory is never guaranteed when a fickle public's vote is involved and all four final couples --Hernandez and Chmerkovskiy, Hinchcliffe and Burgess, former NFL star Calvin Johnson Jr.

and Lindsay Arnold, and singer Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko-- are worthy competitors. The two-night season 23 finale is scheduled for Nov. 21 and 22 on ABC.

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