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Not so sure I'd agree just yet, but ...

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Saints defeat Dolphins, 38-17; effectively wrap up NFC South

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

September 30, 2013 11:28 pm ET

One month into the 2013 season the the Saints are headed for the NFC South title. (USATSI) Exactly a year ago, the Saints lost to the Packers to fall to 0-4. Coach Sean Payton had been suspended for the 2012 season for his role in the bounty scandal, and the ramifications couldn't be more obvious: This was a rudderless team without its leader.

On Monday night, the Saints cruised to a 38-17 win over the previously undefeated Dolphins, and as September gives way to October, this reinvigorated group has all but wrapped up the NFC South title.

Sure, it sounds like hyperbole, but the Saints are 4-0, 2-0 in the division, and the rest of the South looks like this:

Panthers, 1-2

Falcons, 1-3

Buccaneers, 0-4

Yes, there's four months of football left. And yes, the Saints travel to Chicago and New England the next two weeks. But even if they drop those two games, who's going to make a move in the division to challenge them?

Despite whipping up on the Giants, the Panthers remain an enigma. (Can Mike Shula's offense make Cam Newton better? Will Ron Rivera have a job in December?) The Falcons have dropped two in a row and seem incapable of hanging with the Saints. And the Bucs are currently in the running for the NFL's most dysfunctional franchise.

Of course, a lot can change in the coming weeks. After their Week 7 bye, the Saints have to face the 49ers (Week 11) and Seahawks (Week 13), and four of their final six games are in the division.

But here's the thing: In 2010-2011, with Payton on the sidelines, New Orleans went 11-5 and 13-3 and never lost two games in a row. In 2009, the Saint started 13-0, hit a three-game skid, then went on to win the Super Bowl. Last season, Payton was in exile, the team lost four straight out of the gate and dropped three of its final five games.

So the notion that quarterback Drew Brees could make up for the sudden leadership void last season was a gross miscalculation. Put another way: Payton is integral to this team's success.

"There were plenty of times last year where I knew we were in a situation where hey Sean would say this and yet he wasn't there to say and to be honest with you he's the only guy who could say it," Brees said last week. "Because he would say it his way, whether it's a story or an anecdote or cracking a joke or whatever it might be."

And that's the takeaway. It's more than X's and O's, it's Payton's presence that has made a big difference.

"It's less about him being on the sideline for the game and more about him being here for an entire offseason and a preseason," right tackle Zach Strief told the Associated Press before the season.

Payton agrees.

"In the time we've been here, from 2006 to now, this team has always felt confident about winning,” he said last Thursday, via the Palm Beach Post. But in order to win, it starts with the details. It's the OTAs (organized team activities), the minicamps, training camp, that full body of work that leads you to trying to play your best football each game.

He's a great teacher, motivator, mentor, as well as being a great head coach Brees added. He has an excellent pulse of the team at all times, and knows the right message to deliver to our squad."

Whatever the particulars of the message, it's working. There's no reason to think that will change anytime soon, and the rest of the NFC South is almost certainly aware of this.

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"effectively wrap up the NFC South"

There are 12 games left in the season, and crazy things happen every season.

Yup! The BUCS clean house and make Dave Wanstedt interim head coach, and he reinstates Freeman. Freeman and the owners kiss & make up. Bucs go on a 12 game winning streak and bump the Saints outta the NFC South Title.laugh.png

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yeah this article is pretty good, but the wrapping up the NFCS title hasn't happened yet.

hypothetically speaking what were to happen if the falcons win the next 12 games? and saints lose 3...

most people already start naming champions early anyway.

everyone believes denver will win it all this year, except for the guy on NFLAM he said something along the lines of: "if peyton doesnt win it all this year with all the talent he has, then he will be the same old peyton and go 1 and done again"

but so far people are talking that denver will be the team to beat(even though they have without a doubt the easiest schedule)

and that NO and Seattle are going to be the teams to beat in the nfc....

things can change within the next 13 weeks and yet people still think these predictions are the bees nees

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If the Falcons don't completely dominate the Jets, and I'm thinking a victory by 14+ points, it's a bigger problem than I think it is in Atlanta.

I agree with you but sadly, and I'm not a pessimist by nature, I can envision a realistic scenario where the game is in doubt late in the 4th qrtr and it doesn't revolve around mutliple TOs or returns for TDs.

For example, Jets have a good front 7 so I can see them stopping the run and getting after Ryan, while on the other side of the ball I can see Geno breaking contain and getting first downs on a number of 3rd and longs. Then it becomes a FG battle.

Edited by Bart2Ryan+beyond
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