It's always a long summer in anticipation of the new NFL season, but "SportsCenter" has come up with a way to keep your attention aimed between the end zones.
SportsCenter's Ultimate Depth Chart series is debating the best offenses and defenses in each division and picking the best team in each division (Monday through Thursday), then identifying the conference favorite (Friday).
Watch "SportsCenter" and check back each day to see the expert picks as well as the results from SportsNation.
Best offense in the NFC South?
Merril Hoge: New Orleans Saints
New Orleans is still the best offense as long as they don't get one-dimensional. Last season the Saints thrived offensively because they used Reggie Bush to create mismatches. They didn't rely too much on the run or the pass and kept teams off balance by mixing it up and throwing the ball in run situations and vice versa. That's the key to this team's offensive success and it will continue this season.
Joe Theismann: Saints
Four words: Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Last season Payton emerged as the heir to the throne of best playcaller in the league. He put himself on the level of a Mike Holmgren and Mike Shanahan with his inventive playcalling. He constantly kept opposing defenses on their toes with the way he mixed it up and utilized Bush and Deuce McAllister as a tandem. Under Payton' tutelage, Brees continued his ascent to the upper echelon of quarterbacks. He's cool under pressure and makes the right decisions for this offense. This team is set offensively.
Best defense in the NFC South?
Hoge: Carolina Panthers
Julius Peppers makes this defense. He is one of the best defensive players in the league and the best in the division. He's a guy who must be accounted for on every play by opposing defenses and does a great job of handling double coverage. He's the engine for the best defense in the NFC South.
This is the most underrated defense in the league. This the best Saints defense since the days of the Dome Patrol when Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Vaughn Johnson and Sam Mills roamed the Superdome and decimated opposing offenses. This team may not have the big names and great individual performers that other defenses have, but they have a great team defense ethic and they stick to what they are supposed to do. They don't stray and freelance on the field. Each player knows his role and plays it perfectly.
Best team in the NFC South?
The Saints are the class of this division and they should repeat as the South champs. They are the most balanced team in the division and have the ability to outscore any team in the South up to and including the best defense in Carolina.
The Saints are the best at the skill positions offensively in this division and defensively play the best team game in the division. That adds up to another divisional crown for the Saints.