When the Arizona Cardinals (13-3) host the Green Bay Packers (10-6) in the NFL divisional playoffs on Saturday evening, it will be a rematch of Week 16 in Glendale, a game in which Arizona won 38-8. It will also be a matchup between two of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks as Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer take the stage at University of Phoenix Stadium.
After suffering a devastating ACL tear in Nov. 2014, Carson Palmer rebounded in his 12th season and emerged as an MVP candidate, leading the Cardinals to a first-round bye. Palmer heads the No. 1 total offense and No. 2 scoring offense in the NFL, averaging 408.3 yards and 30.6 points per game this season.
Palmer completed 63.7 percent of his passes and threw for a career-high 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns at age 36. He recorded nine games of over 300 yards passing and also registered a career-high 104.6 passer rating. His play anchored the Cardinals as they won nine straight games from Week 7 to Week 16 and locked up their first NFC West title since 2009.
Over his eight seasons as the starter in Green Bay, Rodgers has proven himself to be one of the NFL’s best, but 2015 didn’t play out how many of us would’ve expected. The two-time MVP and Super Bowl champion struggled at times, completing 60.7 percent of his passes for 3,821 yards, 31 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. The 32-year-old eclipsed 300 yards passing just three times this season and was under the 300-yard marker in each of the last seven games.
Down the stretch as Green Bay battled for the NFC North, Rodgers threw three touchdowns and three interceptions over the final trio of regular season games. They lost the last two and the division in Week 17 to Minnesota, fitting into a wild-card spot after starting the season 6-0.
The numbers tell us Palmer is a sure-fire MVP candidate while Rodgers didn’t look like his old self. It should be noted that part of the problem in Green Bay stems from No. 1 receiver Jordy Nelson being out the entire season and injuries to the offensive line, but Rodgers also hasn’t looked as sharp in comparison to year’s past.
On the flip side, Palmer looks resurgent and has excelled all season, despite climbing in age. In 2015, Palmer has clearly been the better quarterback on the better team and now gets the opportunity to host the divisional playoffs when Rodgers and Green Bay comes to town.