Schick Hydro Preview: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Sydney Roosters
If a week is a long time in footy then a fortnight must feel like an eternity for the Sea Eagles.
Two weeks ago, Trent Barrett's men were in third spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder, just two points behind the Roosters. In the two games since, they've gone from grand final hopefuls to being on the verge of falling out of the top eight.
Their past two performances – a 52-22 loss to the Dragons and a 40-6 shellacking at the hands of the Storm in Cameron Smith's 350th game – have stopped the Sea Eagles in their tracks and have left the rest of us questioning whether they remain a genuine force in 2017.
Those queries could well be answered when they take on a Roosters side that has snuck up into second spot on the ladder and will be full of confidence after a near faultless second half saw them overcome the Cowboys thanks to the return of their famed Bondi Wall.
The Sea Eagles have gone with a new-look bench with Brad Parker and Lloyd Perrett coming in for Cameron Cullen and the suspended Addin Fonua-Blake. Shaun Lane returns to the starting side while Lewis Bench drops back to the interchange.
Trent Robinson has named the same 17 that took care of the Cowboys, but expect co-captain Jake Friend to come back into the side at the expense of Victor Radley who has also been named on an extended bench in the Holden Cup.
Why the Sea Eagles can win: Pride.
Manly's defensive woes bring back memories of the 2004 season when Des Hasler's men conceded 94 points in rounds 21 and 22 against the Raiders and Panthers.
How did they respond?
They smashed the Knights the following week 48-10 at home in front of over 10,000 fans in a typically backs against the wall performance that has defined the proud northern beaches club over the years.
And if you think that's a fluke, they conceded 106 points in rounds 16 and 17 that year, but bounced back with a 26-18 win over the Wests Tigers at Brookvale Oval.
This is a team that loves to prove the critics wrong so expect a marked improvement this weekend.
Why the Roosters can win: Manly's recent defensive vulnerabilities will be music to the ears for a Roosters side that loves to throw the ball around.
With 113 misses in the past two games, Manly are now the second-worst offenders when it comes to missed tackles with 654 in 2017.
It's not just sloppy tackling that has plagued them, with the Sea Eagles allowing 17 tries from kicks this season (14th in the NRL) while the Tricolours have only conceded seven (second best).
It's an area that brought Manly unstuck against the Dragons two weeks ago and you bet the visitors will launch an aerial assault of their own with guys like Daniel Tupou, Latrell Mitchell and Blake Ferguson standing by.
KEY MATCH-UP | MITCHELL PEARCE V DALY CHERRY-EVANS
16 | GAMES PLAYED | 19
11 | TRY ASSISTS | 18
206 | TOTAL KICKS | 163
10 | LINE BREAK ASSISTS | 16
The history: Played 129; Sea Eagles 83; Roosters 44; Drawn 2.
They might have gone down in the 2013 grand final but the Sea Eagles have had plenty of joy against the Roosters since then, winning four of their past five clashes.
Match officials: Referee: Matt Cecchin. Assist referee: Grant Atkins. Sideline officials: Brett Suttor and Dave Ryan.
Televised: Fox Sports 2 – Live coverage from 2pm.
NRL.com predicts: All things point to a Roosters win, but as we've seen throughout 2017, things aren't always as they seem.
They've been panned from pillar to post in recent weeks, and with the rugby league world against them, that's when Manly generally produce their best.
This is a danger game for the visitors because the Sea Eagles simply must win if they want to get their season back on track.
We'll play it safe and back the Roosters by 8 but if you're looking for an upset this is the game for you.
This article first appeared on NRL.COM