North Queensland talisman Matt Bowen says St George Illawarra remain one of the best sides in the NRL ahead of their meeting on Monday night despite the Dragons' fall from grace.
While the Cowboys are on track for a top eight finish, the joint venture almost certainly won't play finals football for the first time since 2007.
Ahead of the two sides' first meeting since Matt Prior was sent off and later suspended for five weeks for a high tackle on Johnathan Thurston in round nine, Bowen insists the Cowboys remain wary of the Dragons, especially at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.
"It is going to be a big challenge even though they haven't been going that well over the last four weeks," Bowen said.
"They are a top four side and we are going to have to be up for it.
"We showed against the Warriors last week that we can play some football and we need to do that again.
"We just have to worry about the things that we can control and not worry too much about (what is motivating them)."
Both Thurston and James Tamou have been battling ankle injuries in the lead-up to the round 24 match but are expected to play.
Matt Cooper returns for the Dragons after four weeks out with a hamstring complaint.
The Dragons were all but knocked out of finals contention following a loss to the Wests Tigers last week, while the Cowboys can seal a finals berth with their 13th win of the season.
"We showed against the Warriors last weekend that we are up to it," Bowen told the Cowboys website.
"And this is another game we have to do well in."
The Cowboys have consistently struggled to win in Sydney and they have only enjoyed success in three of their nine visits to WIN Stadium.