Tomorrow's clutch game against Fremantle is North Melbourne's "last chance" to stay in touch with the top eight, but former Essendon champion Tim Watson says they'll have to play brave football to be any chance of pinching a win.
The Kangaroos will run out on to Patersons Stadium in 13th position on the ladder with a miserable 4-7 record after a series of heart- breaking single-digit losses.
They will meet a Dockers side which has not only amassed the best defensive record in the competition, but has also bolstered its attacking options with the return of gun small forward Michael Walters and the inclusion of 20-year-old debutant Matt Taberner.
Taberner's debut caps off a remarkable six months for the 197cm key forward, who was taken in the rookie draft and began his season with the Peel reserves.
Alex Silvagni and Hayden Crozier were omitted.
The Kangaroos have made two changes to the team which lost to Gold Coast in round 11, with East Fremantle product Liam Anthony and Levi Greenwood replacing Scott McMahon (ankle) and Will Sierakowski (omitted).
The Dockers have conceded only 770 points this season and will return to the top four with a win tomorrow.
While such an ominous defensive record would cause concern for most teams, three-times premiership player and Channel 7 analyst Watson said the Kangaroos under coach Brad Scott would be particularly vulnerable.
The Kangaroos are the sixth-highest scoring team in the competition but allow an average of more than 94 points a game.
Lyon and Scott have coached against each other five times since the Brisbane premiership player took the reins of the Kangaroos in 2010, four times while Lyon was at St Kilda and once since he joined the Dockers.
Lyon's sides have claimed the points on all five occasions by an average of 57 points.
"I don't think Brad Scott is a highly defensive coach, even though he would prefer his players to (defend) in games better than what they've been able to do," Watson said.
"What they've done is they've become a better kicking side, they're better at retaining the ball.
"But what they're not doing is they're not able to defend at critical times.
"They're the things that Ross Lyon teams do better than any other teams in the competition."
Watson said while playing risky football had cost North Melbourne in the past, it may be their only option to break free of the Dockers.
Essendon's 37-point comeback against the Dockers at the same venue in round three provided the perfect blueprint.
"If you look at the second half, where Essendon beat Fremantle, what Essendon did was they were really bold and brave," he said.
"They tried to move it and kick it as quickly as they possibly could.
"That's a way of taking Fremantle off their line in a defensive sense, not allowing them the time to set themselves up behind the ball.
"But you've got to be really brave to do that."
But what they're not doing is they're not able to defend at critical times."