Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 10/19/13
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The New Orleans Saints are in their bye week with a 5 and 1. They lead the NFC South Division by (3) games over the Panthers, (4) games over the Falcons and (5) games over the winless Buccaneers. The Saints are in the driver's seat and barring a catastrophic meltdown, should take the division crown. The return of head coach, Sean Payton, who was banned last year from coaching for the entire season as a result of the Bountygate scandal, has expectedly returned the team back to its contending ways. Upon his return, he immediately dismissed defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnola, whose defense set an infamous record of allowing the most yards (7,042) to opposing teams in NFL history.He then hired Rob Ryan who was fired from the same position he held with the Dallas Cowboys last year. Having Coach Payton back on Saints sideline has given the team an obvious boost and reason to have that swagger it's possessed since Payton and Drew Brees' arrived in New Orleans back in 2006! Last year, although Brees had a prolific passing season, breaking all types of passing records including most consecutive games with a TD (55) held by football great, Johnny Unitas! But without Coach Payton and his game planning/ in game adjustments and a porous defense, he couldn't lead the team to a winning season! But the hiring of Def. Coord. Ryan has turned the once very maligned defense into Ryan's Ruffians! The defense has vastly improved in a short period of time under Ryan's leadership! The defense from last year was a read and react type of defense where the players were asked to be cerebral and not instinctively! Ryan's defense is more aggressive type of defense in which the players are playing an assigned defense but reacting to ball on the each play! Last year's defense was dreadful, not only was it give up the most yards in NFL history, it was at the bottom of the defensive stats in every other category!But so far the season, the defense is one of  the top defenses of the league, including the 6th ranked defense in the league! With the exception of giving up 30 pts to the Patriots last Sunday, the defense has allowed 18 pts or less in all the other gams that's its played this season. The defensive coordinator has done this with players who were projected as backups during training camp who start or play significant time on the field! Coach Payton stated that at the start of training camp he had to tape the names of players on their helmets as there were at 40 new players since he last held camp in the 2011 season! Defensive players; Akiem Nicks, Junior Galette, Ramon Humber, David Hawthorne, Raphael Bush & 1st Rd. Draft Choice-Kenny Vaccarro have been instrumental in the approvement of the unit. They have showed that it can carry the load when Brees and the offense struggles during a game. With two thirds of the season still to play, the Saints are well on their way at being a resurgencing team with a defense that easily revels the 2009 team whose defense helped the Saints win  Super Bowl XLVI! 
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