“I don’t see why not. He’s playing right there with them, if not better.”
That quote came from Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians last week when talking about his quarterback, Carson Palmer.
The question posed to the third-year head coach was “do you believe that Palmer is a legitimate MVP candidate?”
It’s nothing new for a head coach or general manager to say glittering things about his quarterback. Sometimes you roll your eyes, like the time earlier this season when Dallas Cowboys GM/Owner Jerry Jones announced that Brandon Weeden throwing the football “was a thing of beauty.” Soon after, Weeden was exiled to the bench after losing three straight starts in relief of injured starter Tony Romo.
But Arians’ belief goes deeper than a head coach/quarterback relationship. That’s because it’s true.
Carson Palmer is an MVP candidate.
He’s got the Cardinals in first place in the NFC West with a 6-2 record, has thrown for 2,386 yards and 20 touchdowns and ranks third in the league in quarterback rating with a 110.2 mark.
Now Palmer isn’t the leading candidate; there are many others who have built a compelling case over the first nine weeks of the NFL campaign. Not surprisingly, most of them are quarterbacks, a position that has claimed the award in 12 of the last 15 seasons.
Here is a look at the leading MVP candidates so far:
2015 statistics: 225-of-338 for 2,709 yards, 22 touchdown passes, 2 interceptions
What he did in Week 9: 26-of-39 for 299 yards, 2 TDS, 1 INT
Best Game in 2015: Week 1 vs. Pittsburgh – 25-of-32 for 288 yards and four touchdowns in a 28-21 win.
Worst Game in 2015: Still waiting for a bad one…
The football world was led to believe Brady would miss the first quarter of the season because of a four-game suspension stemming from the Deflategate fiasco. Not only has he not missed any time after that decision was reversed, he’s playing at a ridiculously high level and has guided the defending champions to a 9-0 record.
Brady has thrown at least two touchdown passes in every game this season. He’s thrown two interceptions — the first was actually a perfect throw to Julian Edelman, who bobbled it and watched Indianapolis’ Mike Adams pick it off and return it 14 yards for a touchdown in a Week 5 contest.
Earlier this season, the veteran raised eyebrows when he said he’d like to play another ten years, well into his late 40s. As ridiculous at that sounds, if he keeps this play up, it’s hard to doubt him.
2015 statistics: 132-of-246 for 1,820 yards, 14 touchdown passes, 9 interceptions; 73 carries for 343 yards, 5 TDs
What he did in Week 9: 15-of-30 for 297 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT in a 37-29 win over Green Bay
Best Game in 2015: Week 3 vs. New Orleans Saints – 20-of-31 for 315 yards and two touchdowns. Also ran seven times for 33 yards and a touchdown in a 27-22 win.
Worst Game in 2015: Week 7 vs. Philadelphia Eagles – 14-of-24 for 197 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions in a 27-16 win.
Newton is an interesting case study. His numbers compared to Brady’s look like a cheese sandwich next to a filet mignon. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is only 14-to-9 and he ranks 26th in quarterback rating.
But Newton has developed into the unquestioned leader of a Carolina team that is not only 8-0 this season, but is 13-1 in its last 14 contests dating back to last year. Considering the utter lack of receiving talent Carolina faces (Ted Ginn Jr. has more catches than any other wideout), what Newton has done with the help of a stout defense has been remarkable.
2015 statistics: 174-of-258 for 2,226 yards, 18 touchdown passes, 4 interceptions
What he did in Week 9: 21-of-27 for 234 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT in a 31-10 over Cleveland
Best Game in 2015: Dalton has had a handful of very strong games, but his performance in prime time Thursday night against the Browns was his best and most efficient.
Worst Game in 2015: Dalton threw two picks and had a season-low QB rating of 64.7 in a Week 8 win over Pittsburgh.
The fifth-year quarterback has been outstanding in 2015, despite being the subject of offseason rumors about his future in Cincinnati. In fact, Dalton is second to only Brady in QB rating this season.
Chances are, the Bengals signal caller wouldn’t get booed at a celebrity softball game in Cincinnati these days.
2015 statistics: 168-of-260 for 2,386 yards, 20 touchdown passes, 6 interceptions
What he did in Week 9: Did not play; Cardinals were on bye week
Best Game in 2015: Talk about efficient … Palmer threw only 14 times (completing 11) for 161 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-17 romp over Detroit in Week 5.
Worst Game in 2015: Palmer had a season-high 421 yards, but also threw two picks — including a back-breaker in the fourth quarter — in a bad 25-13 loss at Pittsburgh in Week 6.
For those who have watched the NFL for the last decade or so, it sounds weird to say it, but Palmer has simply been one of the best quarterbacks in the league since the midway point of the 2013 season. After he got a good understanding of Bruce Arians’ offense in Arizona, he’s just produced big numbers and won games (when healthy). The Cardinals are 19-4 in the last 23 games that Palmer has been under center.
2015 statistics: 163-of-252 for 1,937 yards, 19 touchdown passes, 3 interceptions
What he did in Week 9: 25-of-48 for 369 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT
Best Game in 2015: Rodgers riddled the Kansas City secondary for 333 yards passing and five touchdowns in a 38-28 win in Week 3 at Lambeau Field.
Worst Game in 2015: It was strange to see, but Rodgers threw for only 77 yards against a spectacular Denver defense in a 29-10 loss in Week 8.
Rodgers’ candidacy has taken a big hit in the last two weeks. He was flat-out terrible against Denver and threw a huge fourth-quarter interception Sunday, thwarting a furious late-game comeback attempt at Carolina. Yet, the Packers are still tied for first place in the NFC North, and defending league MVP will have plenty of opportunities to shine the rest of the way.
Others to consider:
• Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons – The second-year back is second in the league in rushing with 721 yards and leads the NFL with nine touchdowns on the ground. However, his team has lost three of its last four contests, and Freeman had a 12-carry, 12-yard game in an ugly loss to San Francisco Sunday.
• Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings – After missing most of the 2014 season, the once-disgruntled back is back. Peterson leads the league in rushing with 758 yards for a Vikings team that has bounced back to win six of its last seven and finds itself tied for first place in the NFC North.
• Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis – He’s a longshot, since he plays for a .500 team and he didn’t play much in the first few weeks of the season, but Gurley has probably been the league’s best back over the last six weeks. The rookie from Georgia had a streak of four straight 100-yard games snapped Sunday at Minnesota, but he’s still fourth in the league in rushing.