It's time for the Bengals' dress rehearsal for the regular season.
Cincinnati takes on the Chicago Bears Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium in the third and most important preseason game.
The Bengals wrap up their exhibition slate Sept. 3 at Indianapolis.
But first, the Bears. Here are five things to watch as the Bengals take them on beginning at 7:30 p.m.
WILL REAL DEFENSE PLEASE STAND UP?: The Bengals' first team defense was great against the Giants, earning an early exit. The same unit -- with extra players, thanks to injury recovery -- was a sieve against a rookie-led Tampa Bay offense that was light years away from the Giants' offensive attack of a year ago. If the Bengals continue to have defensive lapses against the Bears after reviewing Monday's atrocious play, that does not bode well for the regular season. Things could be especially dire if injured All-Pro linebacker Vontaze Burfict is a late arrival to the regular season.
DANDY ANDY OR THE DEAD RIFLE?: Same thing for quarterback Andy Dalton. Which version of the Red Rifle will show up? The one with a near-perfect passer rating on one efficient drive against the Giants? Or the dreadful version we saw against the Buccaneers? Dalton, ripped to shreds after the playoff debacle against the Colts and booed in Cincinnati during the offseason, may want to get out his ear plugs Saturday if he gets off to a rocky start against the Bears.
SKILL POSITION ROSTER BATTLES: James Wilder Jr. is making a case for a backfield job, where it's mighty crowded. He needs a big game against the Bears to support his effort, and it still may not be enough to push Cedric Peerman, who is invaluable as a special teams ace. It wouldn't hurt Denarius Moore if he had a nice outing Saturday. He's on the bubble with fellow veteran receiver Brandon Tate, now that rookie receiver/returner Mario Alford has made such a good impression. Greg Little, whose main problem is focus, can't have a terrible game.
NUGENT ON THE MEND: Kicker Mike Nugent has been inactive the first two preseason games with a tender hamstring, but he has been improving, so much so that he may kick extra points and field goals Saturday. Undrafted rookie Tom Obarski, who's been solid in Nugent's stead, will probably continue to handle kickoff and any longer field goal attempts.
WILL BENGALS FANS SHOW UP: The Bengals drew fewer than 40,000 fans for the preseason home opener against the Giants, just the second time in five years that they have not drawn at least 40,000 to a preseason game. That's 25,000 less than capacity at PBS. If fans stay away in droves this time, that could be the strongest signal yet that Bengaldom has had it with Marvin Lewis presiding over a team he's been unable to lead to a playoff win in 12 years.