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Carson Palmer, Cam Newton first Heisman QBs to face off in playoffs

TEMPE, Ariz. -- They differ in nearly every category.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is 36. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is 26.

Palmer is a traditional dropback passer. Newton is a modern mobile quarterback.

It took Palmer 13 seasons to find postseason success. It took Newton just four.

But both Palmer and Newton had individual success in college. When Palmer and Newton face off in Sunday night’s NFC Championship Game in Charlotte, North Carolina, they will be the first Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks to start against each other in the playoffs in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Palmer won the award in 2002 after a dazzling senior season at the University of Southern California. Eight years later, Newton took home the trophy after leading Auburn to a national championship.

But winning the Heisman doesn’t always spell success in the NFL, even for these two top overall draft picks.

Newton has a career record of 45-31-1 in five seasons, whereas Palmer finished his first five seasons as the Cincinnati Bengals' starter (he sat out all of his rookie season in 2003) with a 32-33 record. He missed three games in 2004 and 12 in 2008.

They’ve combined for seven postseason games -- four for Newton and three for Palmer. Newton got his first postseason win last season against the Cardinals in the wild-card game, which Palmer missed with a torn ACL in his left knee. Palmer earned his first playoff win Saturday night, 26-20 against the Green Bay Packers in overtime.

The two quarterbacks in the AFC championship -- New England’s Tom Brady and Denver’s Peyton Manning -- have combined for 56 playoff games.

Manning finished second in the 1997 Heisman voting to Charles Woodson. Brady didn’t finish in the top 10 in voting in 1999.

Sunday’s Cardinals-Panthers game will also be the seventh time in the Super Bowl era that quarterbacks who were picked No. 1 overall will face each other in the playoffs

It has happened in three of the last four seasons, including in last year’s AFC divisional, when Manning faced Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

Newton and Palmer hit a career milestone together as both are playing in their first conference championship game. They’ll each try to add another title to their resumes Sunday: Super Bowl quarterback.