Take Melbourne out of the equation and the Panthers are the NRL's hottest team with five straight wins.
Not a bad situation for a side that looked like wooden spoon material at one stage.
This is a game the Panthers are expected to win and one they simply HAVE to win if they are going to finish in the top eight.
The Titans are pretty much playing for pride as they try to avoid the wooden spoon.
Match: Panthers v Titans
Round 17 -
Venue: Panthers Stadium, Penrith
Panthers: James Maloney will back up from Origin III but his halves partner Nathan Cleary will be given another week to recover from the ankle injury he suffered in Origin II. With Cleary out, Maloney again plays halfback and Jarome Luai five-eighth. Back-rower Liam Martin was ruled out on Thursday with a quad injury suffered at training. His place in the starting side is taken by Frank Winterstein, with Jed Cartwright coming on to the bench. After coming off the bench in the round 15 win over the Warriors, Dean Whare moves into the centres allowing Isaah Yeo to revert to the back row. Kaide Ellis was omitted 24 hours before kick-off while Moses Leota and Cleary were the last two cut an hour before the game.
Titans: Tyrone Peachey was initially slated to return via the bench but is now looking at round 18 against the Storm. Dale Copley takes Jesse Arthars' place in the centres, while Jarrod Wallace shifts to lock and Jack Stockwell has been elevated to the starting line-up. Jai Whitbread and Will Matthews have both dropped back to the bench. Leilani Latu and Arthars were omitted 24 hours before kick-off while Sam Stone and Brenko Lee dropped out an hour before game time.
Fullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan EdwardsFullback for Titans is number 1 Alexander Brimson
Winger for Panthers is number 2 Josh MansourWinger for Titans is number 2 Anthony Don
Centre for Panthers is number 3 Dean WhareCentre for Titans is number 3 Dale Copley
Centre for Panthers is number 4 Brent NadenCentre for Titans is number 4 Brian Kelly
Winger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'oWinger for Titans is number 5 Phillip Sami
Five-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jarome LuaiFive-Eighth for Titans is number 6 Tyrone Roberts
Halfback for Panthers is number 7 James MaloneyHalfback for Titans is number 7 Ryley Jacks
Prop for Panthers is number 8 James TamouProp for Titans is number 8 Jack Stockwell
Hooker for Panthers is number 9 Mitchell KennyHooker for Titans is number 9 Nathan Peats
Prop for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-HarrisProp for Titans is number 10 Moeaki Fotuaika
2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau2nd Row for Titans is number 11 Kevin Proctor
2nd Row for Panthers is number 15 Frank Winterstein2nd Row for Titans is number 12 Bryce Cartwright
Lock for Panthers is number 12 Isaah YeoLock for Titans is number 13 Jarrod Wallace
Interchange for Panthers is number 14 Wayde EganInterchange for Titans is number 14 Mitch Rein
Interchange for Panthers is number 16 Moses LeotaInterchange for Titans is number 15 Shannon Boyd
Interchange for Panthers is number 17 Reagan Campbell-GillardInterchange for Titans is number 16 Jai Whitbread
Interchange for Panthers is number 19 Jed CartwrightInterchange for Titans is number 17 Will Matthews
- Referee: Henry Perenara
- Referee: Jon Stone
- Touch Judge: Rickey MacFarlane
- Touch Judge: Kasey Badger
- Video Referee: Beau Scott
- Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy
James Fisher- Harris has the second-most tackles this season with 663 and returned to form with the streaking Panthers, while Jarrod Wallace will be looking to back up after making 150 metres and 30 tackles in his last outing and make a point after his Origin III exclusion.
For the Panthers to win
Ivan Cleary will be happy the Origin period is over and look to James Maloney to handle the game management duties almost single-handedly until Nathan Cleary fully recovers from an ankle injury. The Panthers will want to avenge their Round 5 road loss to the Titans and have too much to play for to take their opponents lightly.
For the Titans to win
They can't make the finals so the Titans might as well go out and have some fun throwing the ball around. It might backfire badly but it could force the Panthers into a style and tempo they don't want to play. Maloney might be a bit weary from the Origin decider and the Titans should run their big forwards at him to test him out.
Brett Kimmorley says
People are a bit unsure on what is happening at the Titans with all the Kevvie Walters talk, so I expect a strong player response to that. Penrith have worked out the style of football Ivan Cleary would like them to play. It is has taken half the season but it looks like they are there now. A lot depends on whether James Maloney backs up after Origin. Panthers by 4
James Maloney will surely go down as one of rugby league's clutch match-winners with his knack for coming through in crunch time, but then there's the 'bad Jimmy' - the one who is easily the NRL's most prolific offender for penalties (21) and missed tackles (81).
And another thing ...
The Panthers broke the Titans' hearts in their Round 22 clash last year at Cbus Super Stadium, scoring two tries in the final five minutes to force the game into extra time. Nathan Cleary had a chance to win in it regulation when scores were locked at 16-all but missed a last-minute conversion attempt. Cleary answered the bell in extra time, booting a match-winning field goal.