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Senior NFL Columnist

NFL Power Rankings: Saints' swagger is back with Payton calling shots

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The good citizens of New Orleans don't like me, and that led to one Saints fan even making a voodoo doll of me, stuck full of pins.

They dislike me because they think I take shots at their beloved Saints, and, at times, I have ripped them for some of the things they have done.

See Bountygate. See letting Drew Brees break the record late in a blowout against Atlanta, an act I called classless.

But one thing I've always said -- and you can look it up -- is how much I appreciate the way the Saints play offense with Sean Payton. I've always believed Payton is the best play-caller in the NFL, bar none.

He is aggressive. He is cocky. He coaches that way. And I love it.

There are too many coaches scared of making a mistake. Payton is the opposite. He and quarterback Drew Brees are a joy to watch work together on game days, their precision at running an offense as good as any in the game.

Some of that was lost in 2012 when Payton served his season-long suspension. But in the first five games, one thing about the Saints is clear:

The swagger is back.

They are 5-0, owners of the best record in the NFC, and have moved up to the No. 2 spot in my Power Rankings. Their impressive road victory against the Chicago Bears Sunday showed me a lot about this Saints team. They showed they are capable of going outside and winning a game on the road, on grass, against a good team.

The defense is significantly improved with Rob Ryan's aggressive approach. What's not to love?

The Saints are up to No. 2 in my Power Rankings, the highest-rated NFC team, just behind the top-ranked Broncos.

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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