January 24, 2016
NFL Playoffs: Cam Newton vs. Carson Palmer -- Relevant Statistics

The quarterbacks starting in the NFC Conference Championship game don't have the storied history of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in today's AFC Championship game. Very successful quarterbacks from historically successful franchises, the career paths of Brady and Manning are far more parallel than those of Cam Newton and Carson Palmer. As the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals prepare for their chance to play in SuperBowl 50, they do so under the leadership of quarterbacks with wildly different stories.

By the end of his third season in the NFL, Cam Newton had already won his first NFL Playoff game while having lost two others. It wasn't until his thirteenth season (and third NFL team) that Carson Palmer finally tallied his first post-season win. While Carson Palmer hopes to get his first SuperBowl appearance before his career ends in the relatively near future, a healthy Cam Newton could play for another ten or more years.

As Palmer and Newton prepare for tonight's NFC Championship game, here are five facts worth considering.

  • In NFL Conference Championships, a No. 1 seed beats a No. 2 seed 66 percent of the time. Prior to the two games being decided today, in the last 30 seasons there have been 29 occurrences in which the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds have met in their Conference Championship game, as verified by Covers.com. Since it happens almost once every season, it's not an anomaly by any stretch of the imagination. Unsurprisingly, the No. 1 seed has won 19 of those 29 encounters, coming in at just shy of two-thirds. One would think, then, that means there's a good chance we end up with a SuperBowl 50 featuring the Denver Broncos vs. the Carolina Panthers. This season, however, the No. 1 seed Broncos are actually underdogs, meaning odds are that Carolina faces New England instead.
  • Cam Newton beats Carson Palmer in almost every NFL Playoff statistic. In his NFL Playoff career, Newton already has more total passing attempts (73 to 44) and completions (115-78) than Palmer. While he does have the advantage of one extra game over Palmer, Newton still has a better completion percentage (63.5 to 56.4). According to Pro Football Reference, Newton also edges Palmer out in yards per attempt (7.6 to 7.2) and adjusted yards per attempt (6.7 to 6.5), while the rushing game isn't even worth comparing (Palmer has just one rush in three appearances). Palmer's touchdown-to-interception ratio (4:3) is better than Newton's (6:5), but Newton's overall QB rating is 85.9, while Palmer's is 80.1.
  • Cam Newton vs. Carson Palmer in the NFL Playoffs was supposed to happen last season. In last season's NFC Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, Cam Newton led the Panthers against the Arizona Cardinals, sans Carson Palmer. While he played a significant role in helping the Cardinals make it to the playoffs, Palmer was injured for the second time in the season last November, rendering him unavailable when they lost in Carolina to the Panthers.
  • Tonight's game will be the first time two Heisman Trophy winning QBs have faced-off in the NFL Playoffs. While this statistic has certainly been helped by the supposed "Heisman Trophy" curse that seems to be especially prevalent among quarterbacks, it still comes as a surprise that this has never happened in the history of the NFL. Palmer won the award in 2002, while Newton won it eight years later in 2010.
  • Tonight's game will serve as the "rubber match" for the Cardinals and Panthers in the NFL Playoffs. In 2009, the Cardinals defeated the Panthers, while Carolina defeated Arizona last year. All three match-ups have taken place in Carolina.
Coverage of tonight's NFC Conference Championship game between Cam Newton's Carolina Panthers and Carson Palmer's Arizona Cardinals is scheduled to begin at 6:40 p.m. EST on Fox.

[Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]