Just as a fine wine gets better with age, so does Carson Palmer.
The Arizona Cardinals quarterback is coming off the best statistical season of his career, throwing for a career-best 35 touchdowns and 4,671 yards. Palmer led the Cardinals to a franchise-record 13 wins and a berth in the NFC Championship Game. While Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton won the NFL MVP award in a landslide with 48 of 50 possible votes, Palmer received one of the two remaining votes.
Heading into 2016, Fox Sports’ Brett Pollakoff took a look at 10 players who are most likely to contend for the MVP award this season and the 36-year-old was a candidate.
The Cardinals are once again expected to be one of the NFC’s top teams this year, and Carson Palmer is more than capable of producing MVP-caliber numbers. Last season, he finished fourth in the league in passing years with 4,671, his quarterback rating of 104.6 was good for third, and his 35 TD passes tied him for the league’s second-best.
With the emergence of running back David Johnson and the returning cast of Arizona’s offensive weapons, it’s not inconceivable to predict a similar season from Palmer.
Pollakoff also listed another Cardinal to keep an eye on throughout the season as a potential dark horse in the MVP race.
We told you we’d include a long-shot or two, and (Chandler) Jones has the longest odds of the bunch. But he was on pace to record 19 sacks through his first nine games with the Patriots last season, and his Cardinals teammates believe he’s in prime position to get 20 or more with his new team this season. If that happens, and the Cardinals end up finishing near the top of the league-wide standings, it isn’t crazy to believe that Jones could become the first defensive player to win the NFL MVP since Lawrence Taylor did so 30 years ago.
Taylor’s path to the award in 1986 saw him amass 20.5 sacks and have six multi-sack games. With head coach Bruce Arians and assistant coach Tom Pratt emphasizing that they’ve never seen a defensive line as deep as these Cardinals, Jones could have a golden opportunity to reach those types of numbers.
Pollakoff’s list also included Newton, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, Oakland’s Derek Carr, New England’s Tom Brady and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger.