Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Week 1 Opponent: Each other
Arizona Must Win Because: To give confidence to Kevin Kolb while the team prepares to win the NFC West.
Carolina Must Win Because: Cam Newton needs a win to justify his No. 1 draft pick status and to keep Jimmy Clausen off his back.
This is the only game in Week 1 to put two "must win" teams against each other, and it should be a potentially exciting game.
The Cardinals are currently a 6.5 point favorite over the visiting Panthers, which is reasonable because they should be the better team this season. They will be competing in a more competitive NFC West conference this season against the St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.
A win in Week 1 would give them a head start, as the Rams appear to be underdogs this weekend against the Eagles, and the Seahawks and 49ers actually play each other, so at least one team is bound to have a loss.
A win would also give new starting QB Kevin Kolb confidence going into his first season as a full-time starter. The Cardinals gave up pro-bowl CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Kolb, so a lot of pressure has been put on Kolb to pan out.
The Cardinals and the Rams are the two most likely candidates to win the division, and the Cardinals play a much more favorable schedule. This would be a huge win for Kolb and his team.
On the flip side, the Panthers are looking to just be better than their two-win season a year ago. After spending their No. 1 draft pick controversially on QB Cam Newton, the Panthers are hoping he can be the savior to their offensive woes.
Newton really needs to have a good game in order to silence his own critics and solidify himself as the starter in Carolina. If he has a turnover-ridden game, then the quarterback controversy will be back on in Carolina.
The Panthers still have great running backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and veteran WR Steve Smith may have a bounce back year with a new QB under center, but they will need more than that to improve.
Carolina finished No. 18 last season in total defense and will have to improve on that this year in order to win more than just two games.
Unfortunately, the Panthers play a really unfavorable schedule and will be lucky to win two games again.
A Week 1 victory would be a really good start, though.