It can be a million other things besides the grease;
it could be air flow. Being sandwitched sounds bad, but it could be better than a card thats inhaling hot air from your PSU.
are the fan RPMs the same? One fan might be wearing out.
Also no 2 chips are identical. Powerconsumption varries, and therefore temperatures.
maybe the heatsink is not mounted as well.
As for thermal paste; you want thick stuff for gpus. With cpus, ive never really noticed any real difference between one paste and the other, but for some reason, with GPUs I have. In my experience, thicker gunky stuff = better
. I also found I had to use a lot more than with cpus for some reason