Three things: Panthers-Bengals

Three things to watch for in Cincinnati's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers Thursday night. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET.

Show up ready: I feel like a broken record, but the Bengals need to show up early in preseason games. So far it's been a turnover-fest for the starting offense and many points allowed for the first-team defense. Through two preseason games, Cincinnati is being outscored 41-10 in the first half when starters get most of the playing time. The Bengals are a young team in need of confidence. Setting the tone at home against Carolina would help.

Strides from Andy Dalton: Cincinnati's second-round pick threw one interception in his first preseason game. Then, Dalton threw two picks and fumbled a handoff with tailback Cedric Benson last week against the New York Jets. These are not encouraging signs for Cincinnati's projected Week 1 starter. Dalton needs to play better and make strides in the right direction against Carolina. So far he's thrown for just 155 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions in two exhibitions.

Defending Cam Newton: A lot of eyes nationally will be on Newton, Carolina's No. 1 overall pick who will start at quarterback Thursday night. This is a chance for the Bengals' defense to defend a dual threat at quarterback. Cincinnati’s starting defense improved last week and is expected to lead the team in 2011.