After Further Review: Examining the Payton Factor
Yes, Coach Sean Payton is back. That storyline has been examined, re-examined and analyzed to the point where everyone in the organization is over answering the question. I don't blame them. We are over asking it and moved on a long time ago.
The question now moves to how much of a difference has he made?
While it may be a more accurate question to answer in January, it's impossible to ignore the impact he's made in just two games.
Finding a numerical value for this is difficult, but one stat through two games jumped out at me.
More than anything else, what derailed the Saints' 2012 season was the 0-4 debacle to start. For all intents and purposes, the Saints were in an uphill battle with little margin of error before the calendar even turned to October.
They were simply not their full selves. But while ugly, the truth is the Saints were not that far off. Those four losses were by totals of: eight, eight, three and one point for an average of four points per loss. Think about how bad they looked at times and yet that was the difference between a win and a loss.
Flash forward to 2013. Where the first two games have resulted in wins of six and two points. That averages out to a four point margin of victory.
That's an eight-point swing from '12 to '13. How big are those eight points? Just look around the NFL where the line between the very-good teams and below-average teams is razor thin. Last week alone, 10 of the 16 games around the league were decided by seven points or less.
It may not be completely accurate to attribute all those points to Payton, but the point is when he's on the sideline the Saints always seem to find the right side of that line.
When the playing field around the league is that level, teams need all the difference-makers they can get.
And the Saints have perhaps their biggest back in 2013.