Schick Hydro Preview: Wests Tigers v North Queensland Cowboys
Two teams at opposite ends of the "something to play for" spectrum, with the Wests Tigers unable to make the finals while the Cowboys are clinging to a spot in the eight while battling a horror injury toll.
Despite the Tigers being essentially out of the competition they've still managed to produce some of their best football of the season in recent weeks, first claiming the scalp of the Manly Sea Eagles in Round 24 before falling four points short of knocking off the third-placed Sydney Roosters.
The Cowboys are on their worst losing streak of 2017, and indeed of the last few years, having lost four in a row after going close against two top-four teams and the in-form Penrith Panthers.
North Queensland will welcome back Shaun Fensom and Antonio WInterstein this week, while Gavin Cooper and Lachlan Coote are a possibility of taking the field to help boost the Cowboys' finals hopes.
Why the Tigers can win: With seemingly nothing to play for but pride the Tigers have been liberated to throw the ball around, and it appears to be working. It's well past due given the calibre of players in their side, with the likes of Aaron Woods and James Tedesco they have the forwards to gain field position and the backs to convert territory into points. Against the Roosters Tedesco had a field day, scoring a try and making two line breaks, a try assist, 150 run metres and six tackle breaks. Luke Brooks made a try assist and a tackle break against the Roosters and has also lifted his game in the latter part of the season.
Why the Cowboys can win: In their last three losses the Cowboys haven't been as bad so much as they have been injured. Their first half against the Sharks last week was probably the worst they've played for a month, falling for relatively simple attacking plays from their opponents and failing to muscle up in defence. But their second-half performance was good, as they out-paced and out-muscled the Sharks, running for 929 metres (almost 100 more than Cronulla) and made three line breaks to the Sharks' zero. If the Cowboys can match that output in attack the Tigers will struggle to keep up.
 Telstra Premiership: Aaron Woods vs Jason Taumalolo
Hit Ups, All Run Metres, Offloads, Tackles.
The history: Wests Tigers v Cowboys: Played 33; Cowboys 18; Wests Tigers 15. This match-up has levelled out in recent times with the ledger standing at three wins each, the Tigers having taken the last two games.
What are the odds: Wests Tigers have been backed into favouritism with Sportsbet due to the Cowboys' injury crisis, but there's more than twice the money wagered on North Queensland in the head-to-head market. Both sides have been well supported to win 1-12. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Ben Cummins. Assistant Referee: Chris Sutton. Touch judges: Brett Suttor and Kasey Badger. Review Officials: Luke Patten and Bernrd Sutton.
Televised: Channel 9 and Fox League – Live from 7.50pm.
NRL.com predicts: Both sides have been pushing top-four teams in the last few weeks, but with the Cowboys welcoming the return of two strong defenders they'll be a lot better off than they were against the Sharks. It could come down to desperation, and the Cowboys will edge the Tigers on that front if only because they still have a season to play for. Cowboys by eight.