A year ago, the Saints and Falcons split their annual series 1-1. The first game was a deeply unfortunate loss for the Falcons, but they got their revenge when they embarrassed Drew Brees to the tune of five interceptions. That game was fun.
It's natural to want to look back at those two games, particularly the one the Falcons won, and draw meaningful conclusions. There's at least three good reasons why you shouldn't try to do this.
- The teams have changed. The Saints will have a 3-4 defense under a new coordinator, and many of their familiar faces are gone. They have a new starting left tackle, a new slot receiver and Sean Payton has returned. The Falcons have a new rookie corner, two new starters on the offensive line, Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora, plus some rookies and young players sprinkled in who didn't have roles a year ago. The cores may be the same, but these teams have changed in meaningful ways.
- There was a little bit of a fluky element to that last game. The Falcons forced Brees into those five picks, true, but it's exceedingly unlikely that Brees is going to have that kind of game again. The Saints aren't going to score just 13 points again. At the same time, it's not extremely likely the Falcons will only score 23 points against the Saints D, aided as that was by the next point.
- The Falcons don't have Michael Turner. This goes hand in hand with #1, true, but Jackson transforms the running back corps by adding a new passing dimension and having a little more gas in the tank as a runner. The offense will be that much harder to stop because of it.
There's a million different reasons, truthfully, but any way you slice it these aren't your 2012 Falcons and Saints. The only consistent truth in this rivalry is that virtually anything can happen.