We've hit the home stretch of the offseason with precious little time remaining for players and coaches to get their non-football lives in order. The first practice for the 2013 season is tomorrow. will take a look at 10 questions for New Orleans entering training camp and the season. They're in no particular order, just numbered.

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Which is the critical game on the '13 schedule?
Can Will Smith make the transition from DE to OLB?
Can Jonathan Vilma return to form?
Who will step at WR behind Colston, Moore, Morgan?
Who has the best shot of being this year's breakout star?
What happens at left tackle?
Will the Drew Brees of '09/'11 return or the '10/'12 Brees?
How much will having no offseason distractions help?

No. 2: What impact will Sean Payton's return have?
If you remember New Orleans' loss in Atlanta, then you'll know what impact the return of Sean Payton will likely have on the Saints.

As intense as he is, he's the calming influence on a team that is full of fierce competitors.

Payton is the best in-game play-caller in the NFL and it's hard to argue against that. Though unconventional, his methods of getting the attention of his players have proven to work.

It's his leadership that the Saints missed the most in 2012, a single focal point that turned into leading styles spread out over several coaches and players.

Early in 2012, the Saints' offense didn't have the balance it needed. And when that became painfully obvious, it still didn't change, relying too much on the pass and not enough on the run.

Certainly early in Payton's tenure in New Orleans that, too, was the case. But over the past half decade, balance was corrected and that's when the Saints enjoyed more success than at any other time in franchise history.

The Atlanta game is a prime example of when Payton was missed the most. He wouldn't have allowed quarterback Drew Brees to run a play, let alone one to the middle of the field, with so little time remaining at the end of the first half.

But most importantly, Payton's influence on Brees would have helped in that game as well as the season. In one three-game stretch, the future Hall of Fame quarterback threw nine interceptions and just four touchdowns. That included a five interception night in Atlanta.

Payton's presence is good for two or three wins. Having him around in 2012 would have turned a 7-9 season into a 9-7 or better one.

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