Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has played his way into the NFL MVP discussion.
To Larry Fitzgerald, it wasn't even a question.
The wide receiver didn't even like the notion his quarterback Carson Palmer wouldn't be NFL MVP.
"Name me somebody who is playing better than him," Fitzgerald said, and when it was suggested Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton have done pretty well, Fitzgerald waved it away.
"Oh no, no," Fitzgerald said. "Carson, what he does for us is equally important to any special quarterback you want to put in there. Cam Newton, Tom Brady, I mean, you saw what happened to us last year at this point. If we had Carson last year there's no telling how deep we would've gone in the playoffs. He's that important to us."
As the regular season moves into its final four weeks and postseason honors – which are voted upon before the playoffs – become front-burner topics, Palmer has earned his way into the MVP discussion.
His team is 10-2, and Palmer is having the best season of his career. Newton of the 12-0 Panthers and Brady of the 10-2 Patriots rightfully are mentioned when it comes to MVP, but Palmer has built a strong case for himself.
The Cardinals lead the NFL in scoring and yards. Palmer's 29 touchdown passes are second to Brady's 31. He is one shy of Kurt Warner's franchise record of 30 TD passes, and he already has set the franchise mark for 300-yard passing games in a season with eight. He has eight games of a passer rating of at least 100. His 106.3 passer rating is second (to Andy Dalton's 107.4).
Palmer has done it efficiently as well: He is third in the NFL in yards, but only 10th in completions and 12th in passes thrown.
Palmer, not surprisingly, downplays such MVP talk. "It's an honor, but you want those things at the end of the year," he said recently. "Right now, it doesn't mean anything. There's so much football to be played."
Since the beginning of the 2014 season, the Cardinals are 16-2 in games Palmer has started. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked about playing on a short week, and his thoughts immediately went to the man at the controls of the NFL's top offense.
"I have a lot of respect for Carson," said Zimmer, who was the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati when Palmer quarterbacked there. "Honestly, watching tape, I hear about all these people talking about MVPs and he really should be in the consideration with the way he's playing. And that's not media talk either. That's true. That's what I believe."
It's obviously what Fitzgerald believes as well.
"He's playing at the MVP level," Fitzgerald said. "I think he's the best player in the league at this point. He makes miraculous plays week in and week out."
WATFORD PLACED ON INJURED RESERVE
Offensive lineman Earl Watford apparently hurt his hand at some point Monday, because Tuesday, he was added to the injury list as a Did Not Practice, and then later saw his season end when he was placed on injured reserve.
The Cards promoted safety D.J. Swearinger from the practice squad to take Watford's place on the roster.
Watford started the first two games of the season at right tackle and also saw time at guard this season. But last week, after guard Jonathan Cooper was demoted from starter for Ted Larsen, it was Cooper who was the backup guard on game day and Watford was declared inactive.
The injury report on the short week didn't change much Tuesday. Safety Tony Jefferson (hamstring) was upgraded to limited and long snapper Mike Leach (knee) was upgraded to full. Running back Andre Ellington (toe), cornerback Jerraud Powers (calf) and defensive tackle Frostee Rucker (ankle) remained sidelined.
Besides Jefferson, limited for the Cards were defensive tackle Cory Redding (ankle), running back Stepfan Taylor (shoulder), safety Rashad Johnson (ankle) and wide receivers Michael Floyd (hamstring), John Brown (hamstring) and Fitzgerald (ankle).
For the Vikings, defensive starters LB Anthony Barr (groin/hand), S Harrison Smith (knee/hamstring) and DT Linval Joseph (foot) all sat out again, as did LB Brandon Watts (rib). Safety Antone Exum was placed on injured reserve as well. S Andrew Sendejo and DE Scott Crichton (ankle) were limited.
FITZGERALD FACES HIS HOME TEAM
Fitzgerald grew up in Minnesota and was not only a fan of the Vikings but served as a ballboy for the team for a number of years.
"It shaped me completely," Fitzgerald said. "At 15 years old I had hopes and dreams and aspirations to be one day good enough to play in the National Football League, being able to watch Randy Moss and Cris Carter, two Hall of Famers, and (defensive tackle) John Randle, his work ethic, and Randall Cunningham, and I could go on and on with the guys I was able to watch.
"It was a great learning experience for me. The best internship I ever had."
Fitzgerald admitted that, having played the Vikings a handful of times in his career, the matchup didn't hold quite the same meaning for him.
"It's still good to play against your second favorite team in the National Football League," he said. "I'd be lying if I told you I didn't root for them and my buddies on the team, Teddy (Bridgewater) and Adrian (Peterson) and Kyle Rudolph. A bunch of guys I talk to a lot. I wish them well, just not Thursday."