San Francisco's Frank Gore and Chicago's Matt Forte are the running backs charging into consideration with the most momentum in 2011.
Forte has 408 yards rushing over the Bears' past three games. No player over the past five seasons had reached 400 yards over his team's fourth through sixth games. Only five others have done so since 2000. Gore has 393 yards on a modest 50 carries over the same period. His team has increasingly relied on his production while building a 5-1 record, the 49ers' best through six games since 1998.
"I would just wait for one more week before I nominate," 4949centennial wrote. "My early candidate is Alex Smith, but I'm not ready to vote on him yet."
I was surprised to see more than twice as much support for Smith than for Gore in our SportsNation polling, and in spite of this, Gore was my choice for inclusion at that time. In my view, the 49ers were doing more to support Smith than the other way around. I moved up Gore from 10th last week to third this week after his 141-yard performance against previously 5-0 Detroit.
Smith played his worst game of the season until tossing the winning touchdown pass. Gore didn't get the ball as frequently as anticipated, but when he did, great things happened. He had two carries longer than 45 yards, and his late-game running helped sustain the winning drive.
With some of the other candidates suffering through down weeks -- Drew Brees and the no-longer-listed Wes Welker come to mind -- there was plenty of room for Gore closer to the top. The Lions' Calvin Johnson even moved up a spot, more by default than through performance, although he did exceed 100 yards receiving against San Francisco.