North Queensland are outside the NRL's top eight only on for-and-against but coach Todd Payten is still searching for a full and complete performance from his side.
Against a Newcastle side one spot ahead of the 12th-placed Cowboys, Payten says he'll take a "75-minute performance" if it guarantees them a win on Thursday night.
The Cowboys (4-6) will enter the State of Origin break with a 50 per cent win rate if they can muster home wins over Newcastle and the Warriors in the next two rounds.
But Payten knows any slip-up can spell trouble in the NRL.
"If we want to stay in touch with the eight, absolutely we need to win," he said.
"But I know this game has a very good ability to bite you in the arse when you're looking too far ahead.
"So, clearly focused on tomorrow and then we'll get into the next game after that."
Payten believes Newcastle will be desperate to end the Cowboys' three-game winning streak in Townsville after Knights coach Adam O'Brien was scathing in his assessment of his side after the loss to Wests Tigers in Magic Round.
"We've just warned them (Cowboys players) that they (Newcastle) will come out of the gates fast," Payten said .
"He's (Adam O'Brien) questioned their toughness and the culture, and that'll get a response and it will happen early.
"We just need to be ready for the physical aspect of the game and we cannot afford to start (like we did against the Raiders) when they scored 24 points before we got into gear."
The Cowboys have been forced to make changes to their side with Tom Gilbert coming into the starting side to replace Coen Hess, who failed his HIA.
Gilbert will get his first start of the year while 20-year-old back-rower Heilum Luki is named to make his NRL debut off the bench.
For the Knights, star fullback Kalyn Ponga remains sidelined after missing out last Friday due to a hip injury.
The Knights have made one change with Brayden Musgrove coming in on the wing to replace Hymel Hunt, who is sidelined by a recurring hamstring injury.
Australian Associated Press