The next MVP Watch includes an NFC West player for the first time this season.
Which one would get your vote?
I'll reveal my thoughts when the MVP Watch item publishes at noon ET. In the meantime, let's consider a few potential candidates from the first NFC West team to post a 4-1 record since the 2006 Seattle Seahawks.
Alex Smith: The 49ers' quarterback makes for an unlikely candidate given his career trajectory before this season, but with a 7-1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions, he's a big reason for the team's success to this point. Smith's performance during a 48-3 victory over Tampa Bay was among the most impressive by a quarterback in the NFL this season. Smith now has 15 touchdown passes with only two interceptions in his last 10 regular-season starts. The 49ers are 7-3 in those games.
Frank Gore: For the season, Gore’s 400 yards and three touchdowns put him on pace for 1,280 and 10, respectively. But if the last two games represent a more meaningful representation of Gore’s projected production, the two-time Pro Bowl choice would be on his way to nearly 1,800 yards and 14 touchdowns. The 49ers have leaned on him heavily during victories over Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. He has 252 yards rushing over last two games, bouncing back from a slow start.
Patrick Willis: The 49ers' defense is among the best in the NFL. Willis is the best player on that defense, although Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Carlos Rogers have also been outstanding this season. No defensive player has won MVP honors since Lawrence Taylor back in the 1980s. No defensive player is likely to win the award without lots of sacks or interceptions.
I've focused on 49ers players exclusively because they're the only team with a winning record in the division. There isn't a player from another team in the NFC West enjoying the right mixture of individual and team success for serious consideration.
That tells you we'll have a 49ers player on the MVP Watch list this week. But which one?