The regular season is over, Wild Card weekend is quickly approaching, and the NFL MVP race is only heating up. Right now, the top two candidates come from the top two seeds in the NFC—the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals. While their quarterbacks prepare for the Divisional Round, the debate shells on over the more deserving of the two. I’m not going to support one or the other (I’m still pissed J.J. Watt didn’t win last season), just catch you up on what they’ve done through 16 games:
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Newton is easily the frontrunner for 2015. He’s not necessarily better than Palmer, but he’s a hell of a lot flashier and gets a lot more coverage—and rightfully so after leading the Panthers to a 14-0 start and 15-1 regular season finish.
Newton’s stats call to mind 2003 co-MVP, Steve McNair. With over 4,000 total yards and an insane 45 combined touchdowns, it’s hard to argue against the man who was able to get it done any way possible. Newton may have one of the best offensive lines, a Pro Bowl tight end in Greg Olsen, and a fantastic backfield, but that very rarely comes into consideration amongst voters (i.e. Rodgers over Watt).
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals: With 4,671 passing yards, 35 touchdowns, and 13 wins, Carson Palmer is playing the best football of his career in his 13th season. His Cardinals boast the No. 1 scoring offensive in the NFL, and, easily most impressive, the team has 57 touchdowns this season to 55 punts.
Bruce Arians loves him; the team loves him, and (no offense to the great Kurt Warner) the 2015 Cardinals have the franchise’s best season in the Super Bowl era. Newton may have been the frontrunner for the majority of the year, but don’t be surprised if voters go with consistent Carson.
Heading into the playoffs, the Cardinals also seem poised to make a Super Bowl run. The Panthers, on the other hand, will certainly surprise a few people if they make it to the NFC Championship (depending on whom they face in the Divisional).
Whoever wins, the MVP is a mere consolation prize if the team doesn’t make it to Santa Clara for Super Bowl 50.