Jermaine Gresham and 10 NFL Players Starting to Heat Up at the Midseason Mark

Nick Kostora@@nickkostoraContributor IIIOctober 15, 2012

Jermaine Gresham and 10 NFL Players Starting to Heat Up at the Midseason Mark

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    Some NFL players stumbled out of the 2012 gates. Be it due to injury, sluggish play or being terrible for reasons unknown, not everybody has played to the consistent levels of guys like Matt Ryan and Jamaal Charles.

    However, for the following 10 players the lights are finally turning on. They have played well in recent weeks and are heating up just in time for the midseason mark.

    A six touchdown performance from Aaron Rodgers easily places him in the ranks, as does the suddenly consistent numbers of Jermaine Gresham.

    Who else is shaking off the icicles?

    Let's start with a pair of Cowboys...

10. Jason Witten

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    It appears that the ruptured spleen that hampered Jason Witten to start the 2012 season is slowly but surely becoming an afterthought.

    Witten's production has steadily improved as the season has worn on, including 200 yards receiving and a touchdown over the past two weeks. The Dallas Cowboys offense as a whole has looked better, and a healthy Witten will always be a favorite target of QB Tony Romo.

    However, Dallas' will be greatly challenged in Weeks 8 and 9 as they go up against the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons. 

9. Dez Bryant

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    Don't look now, but Dez Bryant may finally be ready to live up to that star on his helmet. The beleaguered Cowboys receiver started the season with just 164 yards receiving and zero touchdowns through three weeks.

    He appeared out of sync with QB Tony Romo and was an afterthought in the offense, having been targeted a mere 20 times in those contests. 

    Bryant has found his footing in the last two games, though, catching 21 passes for 200 yards and two scores. Bryant has yet to utilize his deep threat ability, hauling in only one pass of over 30 yards this season, but that may be the next step in his development.

    And the fact that he has been targeted 28 times in the last two weeks is a clear sign of improved chemistry with Romo.

8. Jermaine Gresham

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    The Cincinnati Bengals have sputtered as of late, dropping their last two contests to the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns, respectively.

    However, the connection between Andy Dalton and Jermaine Gresham has been gaining some real momentum.

    Gresham caught three passes for 68 yards and a touchdown in Week 6, and his targets have gone up in each of the last three weeks. Much has been made of the skill of A.J. Green at wide receiver, but Gresham is a consistent presence over the middle of the field that can get the tough yards.

    The Bengals will need to utilize his skill set to overcome tough matchups with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos and the New York Giants in the coming weeks.

7. Larry Fitzgerald

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    It is somewhat odd that as Larry Fitzgerald becomes a focal point of the Arizona Cardinals offense the team starts losing games, but such is the dilemma.

    After starting the season 4-0, the Cardinals have dropped their last two contests to the St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills, respectively.

    Fitzgerald, however, is finally building some momentum with QB Kevin Kolb, as he has been targeted 50 times in the last four weeks and has scored three touchdowns in that time. 

    Arizona is clearly a team built on a standout defense and a less than elite offense, but getting Fitzgerald involved more can only mean good things in the long term, even if the short term results haven't been good.

6. Jay Cutler

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    When Jay Cutler is not forcing the ball into tight windows, hopelessly relying on his arm strength as he throws off his back foot and keeping his composure for four quarters, he can be a great quarterback.

    That type of excellence has been clearly demonstrated in the Chicago Bears last two games against the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars, both wins.

    Cutler has tossed just one interception on his way to 567 yards passing and four touchdowns in those games and the Bears offense has been able to sustain lengthy drives that showcase great balance.

    Chicago is far from a one-dimensional attack, and when Cutler is firing on all cylinders they can be an extremely tough team to beat. 

    A Week 7 Monday Night Football showdown with the Detroit Lions should be a great marker for the direction the rest of the Bears season will take.

5. Jordy Nelson

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    In the last three weeks Jordy Nelson has caught 19 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns.

    He has re-discovered the chemistry with QB Aaron Rodgers that led to his 15 touchdowns and over 1,200 yards receiving of last season.

    With Greg Jennings spending most of this season injured, it has been especially important for players like Nelson and James Jones to step up as big time receivers. Nelson struggled to kick off the season, but is settling in nicely now.

    However, the Packers cannot afford to rest easy. They face the top 10 pass defenses of the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals in two of the next three weeks.

4. Wes Welker

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    Remember those early concerns of Wes Welker being phased out of the New England Patriots offense?

    Turns out Julian Edelman is not the new Welker because Welker is still Welker (and Einhorn is Finkel and Finkel is Einhorn, but that's another matter entirely.)

    The slot guru has caught for over 100 yards in each of the Patriots last four games and has regained the title of QB Tom Brady's "go to guy."

    Welker has not been targeted less than 10 times since Week 1 and has not caught fewer than eight passes since Week 2.

    New England's record sits at a rather average 3-3, but Welker is a clear part of the solution, not the problem.

3. Aaron Rodgers

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    And to think people were actually questioning Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense heading into their Week 6 meeting with the Houston Texans.

    Well, Rodgers silenced his critics and reassured fans that he is the same player that won the MVP award a season ago.

    The former Cal Bear threw for 338 yards and six touchdowns in a rout of the previously unbeaten Houston Texans.

    Rodgers has now thrown 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions in the last three weeks. While issues with the teams' running game remain, the potency of the vertical attack has been clearly demonstrated.

2. Marques Colston

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    It is unfortunate for Marques Colston that the New Orleans Saints had a Week 6 bye because he was gaining some real traction within the passing game.

    Colston and QB Drew Brees have always made for a nice pairing when Colston is healthy, but he often seems hampered by something or another.

    Yet, in the Saints last two games Colston had a combined 284 yards and four touchdowns. He was targeted 31 times in those contests and reeled in 18 of those passes.

    At 6'4" 225 pounds, the Hofstra product has all the makings of an elite wideout, but has at times been lost in the Saints' shuffle. Perhaps now he is ready to breakout for good.

1. Ahmad Bradshaw

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    Few would have been surprised if Ahmad Bradshaw came down to Earth in Week 6 after rushing for 200 yards and a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns in Week 5.

    After all, the San Francisco 49ers have a notoriously stout rush defense and Bradshaw has been less that consistent over the course of his career.

    Instead of disappointing, Bradshaw chose to continue his impressive ways, gaining 116 yards on the ground and finding the end zone once.

    His New York Giants have now won each of their past two games in convincing fashion, and having the balance that comes with a quality rushing attack has made this offense all the more lethal.

    If Bradshaw continues performing at a high level, the reigning Super Bowl champions will position themselves nicely for another run at the Lombardi Trophy.