The Run Home: Wests Tigers
How they stand: It's not looking great for the Wests Tigers heading into the final couple of months of the regular season. Round 19's 42-16 thumping at the hands of the league-leading Broncos in Brisbane relegated them to last place on the ladder – quite a fall considering their first five matches of the season included three wins and a one-point loss to 2014 grand finalists the Bulldogs. They had their revenge over Canterbury with a surprise win in Round 8, but their only victory since then was another surprise result over reigning premiers South Sydney in Round 14. A poor middle third of the season means the Tigers are battling to dodge the wooden spoon let alone make the top eight, even if they are only four wins behind the fifth-placed Storm. Upcoming clashes with the Roosters and Melbourne won't make life any easier, although a three-game stretch after that against Canberra, Newcastle and Cronulla could decide whether they finish at the foot of the ladder or mid-table.
Round 20: v Roosters at ANZ Stadium, 7:35pm Friday 24 July
Round 21: v Storm at Leichhardt Oval, 7:35pm Fri 31 July
Round 22: v Raiders at GIO Stadium, 7:00pm Mon 10 August
Round 23: v Knights at Campbelltown Stadium, 3:00pm Sat 15 August
Round 24: v Sharks at Remondis Stadium, 3:00pm Sat 22 August
Round 25: v Warriors at Campbelltown Stadium, 2:00pm Sun 30 August
Round 26: v Dragons at ANZ Stadium, 5:30pm Sat September 5
Key clash: If the Tigers are to have any chance of launching an improbable bid for a finals run, it will have to start against the Roosters this Friday night. Although considering the Roosters' five-game winning streak and their thrashing of the Warriors last weekend, it would take a major turnaround in both team's fortunes for Wests to prevail in this one.
In terms of avoiding the wooden spoon, the Round 23 match against fellow strugglers Newcastle at Cambelltown could well be a bottom-of-the-table decider. The Knights have had a horrid season since kicking it off with a four-game winning streak, but enjoyed a confidence-boosting win over the Titans at home at the weekend. Still, with home ground advantage and star skipper Robbie Farah to be back on deck, the Tigers have every chance of getting the job done.
Key player: Fullback James Tedesco has lived up to expectations in his first full injury-free season, leading the league for tackle breaks and leading the Tigers' try-scoring charts with 11 so far in 2015. The 23-year-old is a pure attacking weapon and his combination with young halves Luke Brooks and Mitch Moses will only improve in the next few seasons – and planning for the future is something coach Jason Taylor has repeatedly insisted is a major part of this year's campaign. Even if the Tigers aren't going to play their way into finals contention in 2015, Tedesco can still provide their fans with more moments to get excited about in the run home.
Injury report: Robbie Farah's broken hand, which saw him miss State of Origin III, is the club's main injury issue at the moment, although he is likely to make his return within the next week or so. David Nofoaluma is also close to a return from a knee injury, although Kevin Naiqama has been filling in admirably in his absence, while back-rower Curtis Sironen remains out indefinitely with a neck injury.
NRL.com predicted finish: 15th.