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Cardinals vs. Seahawks -- Week 1

Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. (grass, retractable roof)

When: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)

Spread: Seahawks by 2.5

Forecast: Rain possible; projected kickoff temperature: high-90s.

2011 records: Cardinals (8-8); Seahawks (7-9)

Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Sept. 25, 2011: Seahawks 13, Cardinals 10; Jan. 1, 2012: Cardinals 23, Seahawks 20 (OT). Series record: Cardinals hold a 14-12 edge.

What matters: A 7-2 finish last season -- locking up a fourth season of .500 or better under coach Ken Whisenhunt -- proved that the Cardinals could compete with any team in the conference, when healthy. That last part is a big one, though. Arizona suffered one of the most devastating losses of the preseason when left tackle Levi Brown was lost for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. Much of the preseason was spent trying to find a good mix up front. Seventh-year pro D'Anthony Batiste assumes the role at left tackle, with rookie Bobby Massie sliding in at right tackle. Week 1 will go a long way toward determining how much Brown will really be missed.

Who matters: John Skelton was named the starting quarterback after an inconsistent preseason, beating out Kevin Kolb. Skelton led the Cardinals down the stretch last season and finished with a 5-2 record as starter, helping Arizona win some ugly games. Skelton, despite a pedestrian 68.9 quarterback rating, rose to the occasion when it mattered. The preseason did little to lock him into the starting role, though, and Whisenhunt will keep a watchful eye on the position, particularly with so much invested in the current backup quarterback.  

Key matchups: Larry Fitzgerald finished strong with Skelton at the helm, ending the season with three 100-yard performances -- including a pair of 149-yard outings -- in the last four games. His rapport with the recently named starter sets him up for a big matchup with Seahawks cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, both second-year pros.

Injuries of note: There might not have been a more costly preseason injury than the one suffered by Brown. The Cardinals had to scramble to put back together an offensive line short on experience, and they were still tinkering with the unit as late as the last week of the preseason. The loss of Jeremy Bridges to a torn thumb ligament late in the preseason was another huge blow. In comes Batiste, who hasn't started since 2007, and who has never started at tackle. Running back Beanie Wells (hamstring) was also added to the injury report on Friday and is listed as questionable. Wells has battled injuries throughout his Cardinals career. A pair of young Seattle receivers -- Golden Tate (knee) and Doug Baldwin (hamstring) -- are hobbled, so veterans Sidney Rice and Braylon Edwards will be relied upon. Tate has been ruled out for this game.

Inside stuff: Wells eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark last season, but the milestone was a bit deceiving. He broke the 100-yard plateau just twice in 2011, including a 228-yard performance against St. Louis in Week 10. Seemingly always nicked up, Wells could cede some time to another talented back in Ryan Williams. The coaches love Williams' potential, and he could get a shot quickly if Wells stumbles. 

Stat you should know: The last time the Cardinals came off an eight-win season, they improved by a win, got hot and made it to the Super Bowl. Can Whisenhunt recapture that magic?

Record watch: Fitzgerald is gunning for a sixth straight 1,000-yard season. Two more, and he'll join one of the NFL's most select groups.

Looking ahead: With two much-improved AFC West opponents -- the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos -- sandwiching a matchup with the Tennessee Titans, the Cardinals are going to need a win to open the season.

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 17

For more news and analysis from Cardinals blogger Jon Gold, follow @CBSSportsNFLARI on Twitter.