When Carson Palmer recently declared himself “100 percent” recovered from November knee surgery, the Cardinals put the rest of the NFC on notice that they will be a force to be reckoned with in 2015.

“With him under center, we know we’re a contender — a true contender,” Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell said on NFL Total Access Wednesday evening. “(It’s) his ability to throw the ball against certain defenses and lead the team. He’s just such a natural leader.”

The numbers bear out Campbell’s claim that the Cardinals are a true contender.

Arizona has won 13 of Palmer’s last 15 starts. Prior to his ACL tear last November, the Cardinals raced out to the NFL’s best record at 8-1. Without Palmer available to run Bruce Arians’ offense, Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley managed to go just 3-5 the rest of the way.

Since Palmer mastered Arians’ system halfway through the 2013 season, he has been one of the NFL’s most effective quarterbacks, sporting a 27:12 TD-to-INT ratio and a 96.1 passer rating.

Although Palmer’s speedy return to practice defied conservative expectations, Campbell said that the quarterback “looked good” in recent practices.

“He’s proved to them that he’s 100 percent,” Campbell said. “… He’s out there making every throw.”

If Palmer stays healthy for 16 games, the NFC West could boast two of the three best teams in the conference this season in Arizona and Seattle.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses the Bills’ QB situation, the Odell Beckham Jr. drama and unveils the Superstar Club. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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