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Cardinals vs. Bengals: Preseason game three needs to be its best for Arizona

With the starters likely playing the first two quarters and the continued influx of injuries and returning players, the Cardinals need to show that they are ready for Monday night football with a complete half against a good Bengals team.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There's been a lot of talk this week about "Can the Cardinals score 400 points on the season?" "Will Carson Palmer throw for 5,000 yards?" "Will Andre Ellington have 2,000 total yards of offense?"

Those are all great thoughts to have and many of those things coming to fruition would likely mean a playoff berth for your Arizona Cardinals, something that is as rare as snow in the desert since the Cardinals moved to Arizona, but the real question for me is, and what should matter to anyone fan, do the Cardinals make the playoffs in 2014?

That is where the what to watch in the third preseason game comes into play.

The Cardinals looked good in spurts against the Texans and Vikings, but the Bengals game should give us a half of football to get a better gauge on what this Cardinals roster has to offer.

Where are the strengths?

What are the weaknesses?

What are we wanting to see in what will likely be the final preseason tune up for the starters?

Put together a full half of offensive plays

The Cardinals starters have played about one quarter worth of snaps, scored two touchdowns on their two opening drives and looked slightly lost on their third drive.

Carson Palmer on his 24 snaps played has dropped back to pass 15 times and thrown the ball 13.

In the first game he complete all five of his passes and looked fairly amazing.  In his second game he started fast and was aided by a fantastic play by Jaron Brown, then the entire offense, in their second series, looked nothing like the dominant force we have come to expect (right or wrong for having those expectations).

Having the Cardinals starters get between 30 and 40 offensive snaps will allow them to put about five or six drives together, but also to have to make adjustments, something they did not do in their second series against Minnesota.

Watching the Cardinals function once their script is out will make just how high octane this offense can be a little more clear.

Find some running room, any running room

It's amazing how when things go well in the preseason a lot of fans will look at it as something that will happen in the regular season as well, but the struggles or worries are because the coaching staff is protecting a player, does not want to show their cards, or it just is not an emphasis at this time.

Maybe those excuses are accurate, maybe they are not, but the starters have not run the ball, well, at all thus far, and that may not be important yet, but within the NFC West, you can bet that it will become an issue.

Whether it is Andre Ellington or Jonathan Dwyer, hell even Stepfan Taylor, the Cardinals have to start finding a little success in the running game.

Get to Andy Dalton as much as possible

The Cardinals were able to get some pressure on Matt Cassel and the Vikings first team offense last week, but it didn't really hurt the Vikings offense.

Pressure is good, but the Cardinals, again playing against San Francisco and Seattle four times, have to seal the deal more often or Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson will make them pay.

Dalton is not the same type of runner as Wilson or Kaepernick, but he moves better than Cassel, who made things look easy against the Cardinals, and will give them another good look.

Cover Tyler Eifert... Please

It is getting to the point of being a little more concerning than anyone will want to admit, but really Kyle Rudolph beat up on the Cardinals secondary (even though it was the second team defense) with relative ease on Saturday.

Deone Bucannon missed an early chuck against Rudolph who then decided to drop an easy touchdown pass. Then there was a blown assignment that allowed Rudolph to run free for a touchdown later on.

Eifert and Jermaine Gresham will be another formidable tight end match up for the Cardinals, but this time it should be the first team defense that is getting the reps.  Let's make sure that was a singular instance and not another sign of things to come.

Patrick Peterson v AJ Green... Sit back and enjoy

The Cardinals paid Peterson like he is the best corner in the league, now it is time to see him start playing like one.  He struggled against the Vikings last week, getting beat badly by Cordarelle Patterson, but saved by a terrible throw, then proceeded to give up two more catches for 24 yards in his short stint on Saturday.

AJ Green is a force at the wide receiver position and will give Peterson the best test he will have prior to week one with Keenan Allen and the Chargers coming to town.  Time to tighten some things up and get into work mode.

Logan Thomas time y'all

That is all.

When the season starts this will typically be where I put my game day predictions so we can all laugh when I do not get a single one right on the Cardinals points or if they win or lose, but for this week, well I'll give you my first half thoughts cause having a third stringer coming in like Logan Thomas is just unfair.

Halftime prediction:

Cardinals 21
Bengals 17