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Falcons 2015 Schedule: what to expect against the Saints

An absurdly early look at some of the key storylines for the Falcons versus Saints matchups in 2015.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons' annual matchups with the New Orleans Saints are always two of the most anticipated games for fans of both teams in any given season. As you'll fondly remember, thenFalcons emerged victorious over the Saints twice last season, but 2015 will see two very different teams taking the field.

For one thing, the Saints have made big personnel changes, most notably effecting a trade that sent tight end Jimmy Graham to Seattle for center Max Unger. Graham was generally very successful against the Falcons during his Saints tenure, putting up 635 yards and eight touchdowns against Atlanta over five seasons, and he won't be missed by Falcons fans. The Saints further limited their receiving options by trading Kenny Stills, who had 931 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 2014.

The Saints did address their run game, re-signing Mark Ingram and adding free agent C.J. Spiller to the roster in free agency. The Falcons' defense, which was not good last season in any context, is an unknown at this point, and it's difficult to project how Atlanta's defense will have changed and what they'll be able to do in terms of generating pressure and stopping the run against the Saints.

New Orleans' pass defense struggled last season, finishing 2014 ranked 25th in the league with 251.2 passing yards allowed per game. The Saints added free agent Brandon Browner to help address this deficiency, but will he be able to help the Saints keep Julio Jones and Roddy White in check?

Saints fans are fond of talking about Sean Payton's record against Mike Smith, but that point of pride is no longer relevant. This season begins a new era, the Dan Quinn versus Sean Payton era, and the record is 0-0 at present.

Obviously, there's plenty of time between now and the start of the season, and plenty will happen between now and then, but what do you see as the key storylines for the Falcons' matchups with the Saints this season?