He's on pace for the best statistical year of his career and has put the Cardinals in prime position to win the NFC West and earn a first-round bye as the second seed in the NFC. But it's how Palmer's doing it individually that's put him near the top of the NFL MVP race. Starting today through the end of the regular season, we're going to take a weekly look at how the three top MVP candidates stack up.
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona: He threw for 356 yards and two touchdowns and completed 65 percent of his passes as Arizona swept its NFC road games with a 27-3 win over the Rams. He's ranked in the top three of eight offensive categories: winning percentage (83.3), passing yards (3,693), yards per attempt (8.83), yards per drop back (8.26), passing touchdowns (29), passer rating (106.3), passing first downs (179) and QBR (82.6).
Analysis: Palmer isn't the front-runner for the MVP, but he's making a strong case. The Cardinals have the highest-scoring offense in the league, and they're on a six-game win streak. The more they win, the more Palmer proves how valuable he is to this team.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina: He led the Panthers to a 41-38 win over the New Orleans Saints to keep Carolina undefeated at 12-0. Newton is ranked in the top 10 in just two categories: winning percentage (100) and passing touchdowns (25).
Analysis: As long as the Panthers keep winning, Newton is likely Palmer's stiffest competition. It's hard to compete against an undefeated record.
Tom Brady, QB, New England: Brady suffered his second straight loss, 35-28 to the Philadelphia Eagles, after 10 straight wins. He's ranked in the top 10 in 10 categories: winning percentage (83.3), passing yards (3,912), yards per attempt (7.72), yards per drop back (7.01), passing touchdowns (31), interceptions (6), touchdowns per interceptions (5.17), passer rating (102.8), long pass (76 yards) and passing first downs (189).
Analysis: Statistically, Brady is in lockstep with Palmer. But two consecutive losses late in the season won't bode well for Brady, especially if Palmer keeps winning.