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Making a case for Cardinals QB Carson Palmer as MVP

TEMPE, Ariz. -- There's a tall, big-armed quarterback in his 30s who is leading a winning team and has made a case to be this season's NFL MVP.

And his name isn't Tom Brady.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has taken his rehabbed left knee and 35-year-old body and thrown himself into the conversation about the league's top player. Midway through the 2015 season, it's easy to build a case for Palmer.

He leads the NFL in QBR (84.8), yards per attempt (9.18) and yards per dropback (8.67), per ESPN Stats & Information. His 20 passing touchdowns are second most behind Brady. He has the third-highest passer rating (110.2) and the fifth-most passing yards (2,386).

Of the eight quarterbacks with six or more wins, he's among the most efficient with the second-fewest dropbacks (272) and actual plays (308).

But when it comes to evaluating the one player who's most valuable, looking at his team's success with him versus its success -- or lack thereof -- without him is a critical component to identifying how important a player is.

That's the idea behind a player being the MVP, right?

Last season was the ideal case study to evaluate Palmer's importance to the Cardinals. With him under center in 2014, they were 6-0. Without him, they went 5-5 and lost embarrassingly in the wild-card round of the playoffs. After recovering from the second ACL tear of his career, Palmer has led Arizona to a 6-2 record and the NFC West lead. If the Cardinals keep up their current rate of winning, they'll secure their first NFC West crown since 2009 and have home-field advantage until the NFC Championship Game.

Palmer already has set a franchise record for most touchdown passes through eight games and he's on pace to have the best season of his career.

Arizona is on pace to score the most points in a season in franchise history and gain the most yards since at least 2001. And if the Cardinals' second-half record mirrors their first, this season will be the first in franchise history with 12 wins.

Regardless of how Brady and the Patriots finish the season, it will be difficult to ignore Palmer as MVP as long as he remains healthy.

His coach, Bruce Arians, thinks Palmer should be considered for MVP with eight games left in the season.

"I don't see why not," Arians said. "He's playing right there with them, if not better."