Sean Payton's Coach of the Year odds

ESPN.com’s Mike Sando has a great breakdown of this year’s NFL Coach of the Year candidates in this ESPN Insider pieceInsider. It’s hard to argue with his ranking of Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid (1-to-1 odds) at No. 1 and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton in the No. 2 spot (3-to-1).

In most years, Payton would probably be considered more of a front-runner for the way he has returned the Saints to prominence following his season-long suspension. But the Chiefs’ remarkable turnaround from a 2-14 season in 2012 will be hard to top.

Payton might just have to settle for being a hero among his peers for proving just how valuable a NFL head coach is. The Saints were 13-3 with Payton in 2011, 7-9 during his suspension, and now they’re back to 9-2.

There’s still time for the pecking order to change – and this week’s games could make a huge impact. The Chiefs (9-2) are hosting the Denver Broncos (9-2) on Sunday, with the AFC’s top seed possibly hanging in the balance. The Saints will play at the Seattle Seahawks (10-1) on “Monday Night Football,” with the top spot in the NFC still up for grabs.

If the Saints wind up as the NFC’s top seed with something like a 13-3 record, and the Chiefs wind up as the fifth seed at something like 11-5, it’s still possible for Payton to win his second Coach of the Year award (previously in 2006). Even then, Reid might be the front-runner.

Likewise, Saints quarterback Drew Brees is still currently playing second fiddle to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in the MVP race. But if the Saints finish strong and the Broncos stumble a bit down the stretch, it’s possible for Brees to finally win his first MVP after finishing runner-up three times (in 2006, 2009 and 2011).