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Since the NFL began handing out Player of the Week honors, nearly 100 Cardinals players have been awarded with the NFC’s version of the accolade. Only twice, however, had it ever gone to one of the franchise’s wide receivers.

Until Wednesday, that is.

That’s when J.J. Nelson joined Roy Green (1988) and Larry Fitzgerald (2015), the two greatest receivers in team history, in being named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance Sunday in Arizona’s 16-13 overtime victory over the Colts.

“Man, that means a lot,” Nelson said. “I didn’t really know too much about that, but those guys are great players in this franchise, so to be along those guys, that means a lot. But I couldn’t have done it without these guys in the locker room.”

Nelson had five catches for 120 yards and a game-changing touchdown in the fourth quarter to help the Cardinals avoid a 0-2 start. They now suddenly have some life entering Monday night’s long-awaited home opener against the Dallas Cowboys, and in fantasy football circles, Nelson has now found himself as one of the more valuable Week 3 pickups.

That’s because Nelson, who led all Week 2 pass catchers in receiving yards, has been about as consistent of a receiving threat as there’s been in the NFL, dating back to the midway mark of last season. He now has scored seven touchdowns in his last seven games and nine in his last 11 overall.

Dating back to Week 8 of last season, only Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson (10) has more receiving touchdowns than Nelson (eight), a third-year pro out of Alabama-Birmingham.

“As long as J.J. stays healthy,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s been pretty consistent now for a year-and-a-half. … We’ve just got to keep him upright and he’ll make big plays every week.”

RELATED: David Johnson says there’s no timeline for return

The Cardinals (1-1) are banking on it, especially with fellow receiver John Brown still slowed because of a troublesome quadriceps issue. For Arians’ offense to operate at full tilt and efficiency, it requires a speedster receiver like Brown to stretch the field and attract a second safety to open things up in the running game and clear the underneath passing routes for quarterback Carson Palmer.

Nelson, though, has managed to step up and provide much of that without Brown, who likely will miss his second straight game on Monday night. On Monday, Arians said it would probably “have to be miraculous” for Brown to play against Dallas. On Wednesday, during the open portion of practice, Brown wasn’t on the field with the rest of his teammates and the news looks even less encouraging.

“I have to see him run before I get encouraged,” Arians deadpanned Wednesday.

Outside of a few injuries here and there and one too many dropped balls during his first two NFL seasons, Nelson has quietly been delivering for the Cardinals. Not many people outside the organization probably expected this from a smallish wideout (5 feet, 10 inches, 160 pounds) who was a fifth-round pick from a small college that dropped its football program.

Arians, though, said the Cardinals always knew Nelson could play.

“Yeah, because he was a very, very fast guy who can change direction easily and stop easily,” he said. “A lot of very fast guys, you go way back to John Carlos and all those guys that tried to play football, they couldn’t stop and they couldn’t turn. (Nelson) did it fluidly at a great, high speed.

“Mike Wallace was the same way, just a little bit bigger. Those traits usually show up as pretty good wide receiver and he’s doing a good job of catching balls over the middle now. You just don’t want to put him in too much of harm’s way.”

MORE: Cardinals have challenge of rebuilding offense during the season

Because of his slight build, it’s always been a test for Nelson to go against press, man-on-man coverage at the line of scrimmage. Especially against bigger, more physical cornerbacks. That is improving, too.

“I’ve put a big emphasis on that. My release is coming in and I’m getting better,” Nelson said. “It helps being able to go up against guys like Patrick Peterson every day. That helps me out big time. I think it really helped me a lot this year in training camp, specifically. He’s one of the best corners in the league, so going against him every day, that pretty much has to elevate your play.”

Nelson is the club’s leading receiver in catches (10), yards (163) and touchdowns (two) after two games, and Palmer sees him as much more than a deep threat and temporary stop-gap until Brown returns.

“He’s not a one-trick pony,” Palmer said. “It seems like he may be, but he catches the ball really strong. You’re talking about his slight build, but he catches the ball with really, really strong hands. He’s really smart. He sees defenses unfold. He’s got a lot of plays where they’re built, post-snap reads where he runs one of three routes.

“So he’s really, really intelligent. I said it the other day, he’s one of those guys that when the lights come on, he makes plays. He’s a big playmaker.”

The lights don’t get much brighter than they will Monday night on ESPN against the Cowboys in front of the Red Sea.

“It’s going to be a big night, especially going against the Dallas Cowboys,” he said. “They were one of the top teams in the league last year. We’re just looking forward to adding another win on our belt and get better.

“We’ve got to come out fast and really start clicking on all cylinders.”

Exactly. Just like Nelson has been doing for the past year and a half.

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MORE CARDINALS: Third-and-20 conversion spurs Cardinals to victory over Colts

Reach McManaman at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac and listen to him live every Wednesday night between 7-9 on Fox Sports 910-AM on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.

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