Sean Payton has always been arguably the league's best play-caller. I would take him No. 1 in that category.
But it's time he gets more credit for simply being a heck of a coach. This season is a prime example.
When Drew Brees went out in Week 2 with a thumb injury, an injury that was expected to keep him out six weeks, the hope was that the Saints could fight through a tough schedule with two or three victories until he got back.
They're 3-0 since.
A lot of that credit will go to backup Teddy Bridgewater – who was outstanding against Tampa Bay Sunday with four touchdown passes – but most of it should go to Payton. He knows exactly how to get his team ready to play in these types of situations.
If the season ended today, he would be my Coach of the Year. The Saints are 4-1 and they have ripped off the three straight victories without Brees to climb to third in my Power Rankings this week.
The Niners stayed unbeaten by beating up on the Browns and there's a lot to go over. John Breech, Sean Wagner-McGough and Jared Dubin break down what it means, rank coaches on the hot seat and more on the Pick Six Podcast, listen in the player below and subscribe here for daily NFL goodness.
Payton has always been known as a coach who has used countless gimmicks to motivate his teams, like burying artifacts from a previous season on a practice field to make it go away, to having a baseball bat in the locker room.
This year, it's just straight coaching. That's why the Saints are maneuvering through the Brees-less time with an impressive winning streak. Payton has matured as a coach and a person. You can sense it when you talk to him. Once a fiery, combative coach – even with the media – he's now much more docile than he used to be.
Some of that comes with winning a Super Bowl, but this is more about his changing style -- and it's working.
The Saints are one of the best early-season stories so far and Payton is showing he can coach the heck out of a team even without his star quarterback.
|They don't look crisp all the time, but they are winning games. It's all about the defense in the early going so far.||--||3-10-0|
|Kyle Shanahan has done a great job with this team. The defense has a chance to be special as well. Now they face a big one with the Rams.||1||9-3-0|
|Teddy Bridgewater is 3-0 as the starter since taking over for Drew Brees. He has more than handled the challenge and is coming off his best game.||1||5-7-0|
|Russell Wilson might now be the MVP leader. He is carrying this team more than ever - and that's saying something.||2||6-6-0|
|They looked like a physically dominant team against the Cowboys last week. If they can run it like they did against Dallas, watch out.||3||6-6-0|
|All of a sudden that offense is an issue. Patrick Mahomes has been ordinary the past two weeks. With their defense, that's not a good thing.||4||8-4-0|
|At 4-1, they are starting to have that playoff feel about them. That defense is outstanding and will keep them in a lot of games.||2||6-6-0|
|They seem to be getting things right after a slow start. They just have to get through all the injuries to get where they will eventually be as a team.||3||10-2-0|
|Two consecutive losses have the Cowboys in a free fall. What happened to this team? The defense was horrible against the Packers.||4||9-3-0|
|The defense is becoming a major issue, especially the corners. They have to play better or they might end up watching this postseason.||3||6-6-0|
|That was a tough, hard-fought battle on the road at Pittsburgh. They won a game even when Lamar Jackson struggled, which is a good sign.||4||9-3-0|
|Kyle Allen is 3-0 as a starter as they have turned their season around. How long can it continue? As long as Christian McCaffrey is playing at an MVP level, what's to think it will stop?||4||1-11-0|
|It's time to give Jon Gruden credit for this team winning two tough road games. Can they be a playoff team? It's possible.||4||5-7-0|
|That was an impressive showing by the defense at Kansas City. Frank Reich will again have this team in the playoff mix.||4||7-5-0|
|What happened on that trip to London? They hardly resembled the Bears team known for defense. They just haven't had that Super feel this season.||5||4-8-0|
|They come off the bye with a tough Monday night road game at Green Bay against the Packers. If they can win that one, the division race will be tighter and more people will think the Lions can compete.||4||9-3-0|
|The injuries they've suffered are showing up on a weekly basis. They just don't have enough top players right now. Can Philip Rivers rally this team through all the injuries?||4||5-7-0|
|Maybe the passing game should be challenged on a weekly basis. Kirk Cousins had one of his best games against the Giants. Here comes a big one with the Eagles.||1||6-6-0|
|Deshaun Watson was sensational against the Falcons. He will need to do more of that this week against the Chiefs on the road.||5||7-5-0|
|The hype was way too much for this team before the season. They forgot you need an offensive line to win in this league.||6||7-5-0|
|The defense, which was supposed to be the strong part of this team, isn't very good right now. Gardner Minshew sure isn't the problem as a rookie quarterback.||1||8-4-0|
|Daniel Jones lost for the first time against the Vikings, which was the best defense he faced. Now here come the Patriots and their stingy D. Good luck.||1||4-8-0|
|At 2-3, they are still in the division race, but that wasn't a great showing at New Orleans. The defense came back to reality a bit the past two weeks.||1||5-7-0|
|Who are they as a team? They are so inconsistent. The offensive line was horrible against the Bills.||1||4-8-0|
|Vic Fangio got his first victory against the Chargers behind an impressive defensive showing. That's what we expected to see from this team.||3||6-6-0|
|They are down to a third-team quarterback and at 1-4 things sure don't look good for this group. Is the season over? It might be soon.||1||7-6-0|
|Kliff Kinsgbury got his first victory as coach to go with a tie. At 1-3-1, they are showing improvement, which is the most important thing for a young team.||2||3-10-0|
|They have to be one of the biggest disappointments this season. Dan Quinn has to be in trouble - even if Arthur Blank won't say it.||2||6-6-0|
|It's been a bad start for Zac Taylor. You have to wonder if they will start trading away assets for the future.||2||6-6-0|
|Jay Gruden is gone as coach, replaced by Bill Callahan. Does it matter? This isn't a good team, but they play Miami this week in a game they can win.||--||4-9-0|
|This thing is a total mess. They lack talent, and the injuries have crippled this team. It's going to be a long season.||--||4-8-0|
|The good news is they didn't lose a game this week. Of course, they didn't play. They have a winnable game Sunday with the Redskins.||--||9-3-0|