Rich and Zorko will miss Sunday's clash with Essendon at the Gabba after picking up minor hamstring injuries in last week's 41-point win over the Western Bulldogs.
Despite the prospect of being without two star players, the Lions will start as hot favourites against lowly Essendon.
But it is the tight nature of the ladder that has left McCluggage with a nervous lump in his throat.
The Lions (11-4) are in third spot, wedged in between second-placed Geelong (11-4) and fourth-placed Fremantle (11-4).
Carlton and Collingwood are just one win further back, while even ninth-placed St Kilda (9-6) is within striking distance.
The race for top-four spots is set to intensify over the coming weeks, and McCluggage knows there's little margin for error.
"When we lost to Melbourne (two weeks ago), all of a sudden you’re back with the pack," McCluggage said.
"You get a bit of breathing room (when you win), but it can quickly go back the other way if you lose one or two in a row.
"It just feels so tight up there between second to sixth, seventh. And even eighth, ninth, 10th, they're all close.
"It's great viewing. It's good for footy, but it makes you pretty nervous as a club and as a player.
"I think you play better footy when you're on edge and you must win. Every game this year is like that. It's a little bit like a final every week. It's great fun to be playing."
Brisbane takes on flag fancies Carlton, Richmond and Melbourne among its final seven games.