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Top 10 quarterbacks going into 2016: No. 9

Jan 24, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 24, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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I know someone who absolutely despises Carson Palmer.

Hates him. Abhors him. He even calls him “Carson Palm-Palms” to verbally portray his hatred for Carson Palmer.

I find it funny, since Palmer is one of these guys who seems to have no on-field personality. Positive charisma? Never heard one of those put-his-life-on-the-line-for-his-love-of-his-teammates stories when talking about Palmer. Negative attitude? The dude worked his way back from two ACL tears, an incredible feat that would be quite difficult with a glass-half-empty mentality.

Personally, I don’t consider the former No. 1 pick a top 10 QB in the league. However, when you look at the team surrounding him, it’s easy to see why Palmer comes in at No. 9 for my Top 10 QBs in 2016.

No. 9: Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

2015 Stats: 342 CMP/537 ATT, 63.7% CMP%, 4,671 YDS, 35 TD, 11 INT, 104.6 Passer Rating

Jan 24, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) reacts during the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

If the stats told the whole story, Palmer would indeed be the top five QB that most pundits label him. However, the magic number here is 36, as in years of Mr. Palmer’s existence.

The modern NFL landscape tells us that quarterbacks, particularly good ones, can eek out a little bit more longevity than their ancient counterparts. Brett Favre had arguably the best year of his career at the age of 40. Peyton Manning had the best year for any quarterback in history as a 37-year-old. Tom Brady and Drew Brees continue to churn out dominant years at the ages of 38 and 37, respectively.

But Favre followed up his dominant season with a whimper, and we all remember how last year went for Peyton. The jury is still out on Brady and Brees; the former thinks he’ll play until he’s 45, while the latter proved all the haters wrong after a slow start.

What worries me about Palmer are those two knees of his. Palmer has had two ACL tears in his career, with the second one occurring just two years ago at the age of 34. And sure, you can make the argument that Manning had those pesky neck surgeries and came back stronger than ever.

But Carson Palmer is not Peyton Manning. Only two out of fourteen seasons saw our No. 9 QB garner a passer rating over 100, and one of those seasons was over a decade ago. Palmer is more likely to regress to the mean–as statisticians like to say–then replicate his success from a year ago.

All that being said, this does not mean 2016 is the year Palmer atrophies. It’s just hard to justify placing Palmer too high on our list when the plain truth is a wildly inconsistent QB with a spotty injury history could potentially drop off a cliff in terms of production. The 2016 version of Palmer is the true definition of boom-or-bust.

And boy, have the Cardinals set Palmer up with the perfect boom scenario. Last week, I talked about Ben McAdoo and how his West Coast Offense was a perfect fit for a QB looking to revitalize his career trajectory. Swap that creepy thing above McAdoo’s lip for the fancy-schmancy beret pictured here, and you can tell who the All-World Coach is.

May 6, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians (left) with general manager Steve Keim during rookie minicamp at the Cardinals Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I mean, that thing just puts Mike McCoy’s stupid visor to shame.

Anyway, there’s a reason Bruce Arians’ name is now mentioned in the same conversation as Pete Carroll, Bill Belichick and Ron Rivera. The man waited a long time to reveal his insane coaching abilities, and it certainly showed with the way the Cardinals have performed the past couple of seasons.

As Ken Whisenhunt proved in 2013, a good coach can mask poor offensive line play. For that reason alone, Palmer should be preaching the church of Bruce Almighty.

Bruce Arians does not paint the whole picture, though. Let’s not forget about Steve Keim, the man who crafted one of the best all-around rosters in the NFL. Palmer is bolstered by a talented defense led by Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Calais Campbell, to name a few.

Dec 21, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receivers Michael Floyd (15) and Larry Fitzgerald (11) and John Brown (12) line up against the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Seahawks won 35-6. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

But the offense surrounding Palmer? Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown make up what could be the best wide receiver corps in the NFL. Fitzgerald most likely will not match last season’s dominance as he nears the end of his career, but if there’s anything Fitz has proven as the years go by, it’s that he’s incredibly consistent. I still think we have yet to see the best of Floyd, your prototypical No. 1 receiver who dominated towards the end of the year. The dude is incredibly talented; if you need proof of that statement, then watch this. And the short wunderkind out of LSU, Brown, has seen to it that you don’t sleep on him, even if he is just 5-foot-11 and 179 pounds.

All this, and we never even talked about the Second Coming of Beast Mode, otherwise known as David Johnson. Johnson, a guy who I wanted the Chargers to nab in the fourth round last year (the Cardinals took him early in the third round, which was a steal nonetheless), aims to lead a rushing attack that also features speedsters Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson. This trio will look to protect Carson Palmer and create a more efficient and effective offense, just like they did in 2015. Us Chargers fans–well, we’re left to reminisce of the days when No. 21 crouched alongside Philip Rivers.

In the end, Palmer did put up huge numbers last year for a team that made it to the NFC Championship. If the Cardinals can stay healthy and replicate last season’s success, there’s no reason why Palmer can’t have another career year. While his playoff record is rightfully scrutinized, his weapons are just too numerous, and his coach is just too good at his job. And dressing.

The only things holding Palmer back on this list are his age and injury history. As all talking heads, sports writers and bloggers such as myself will remind you constantly, Father Time is undefeated.

I’ll be returning next week to reveal my No. 8 QB heading into the 2016 NFL Season!

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