Reasons to be Cautious:
The Defense – 7,042 yards (440.1 per game)! That is simply embarrassing. Some of that is a product of the talent in their division, but that talent hasn’t gone down (in fact it has gone up). With Atlanta (Ryan, Jones, White, Gonzalez and Jackson), Carolina (Newton, Smith, Stewart and Williams) and Tampa Bay (Freeman, Jackson, Williams and Martin), this defense will have its’ work cut out for it in 2013.
WRs – Colston and Moore put up good numbers last year, but all WRs do that with Brees. I still do not consider Colston to be a dominant WR. However, take this with a grain of salt; Brees still threw for 5,000 plus yards and had 3 receivers (Colston, Moore, Graham) in the top 22 for yards (4 in the top 63 if you count Sproles) and all 4 players ranked in the top 33 for receptions.
Running Game – Mark Ingram has been a disappointment so far (602 yards in 2012), however, he did average 3.9 ypc and I believe he will be the featured back in 2013 and finally have as much of a breakout type year (800-1,000 yards) as a RB can have in this type of offense. Also, the Saints basically use the dump off to Sproles in place of a run game – and it worked to the tune of 75 catches, 667 yards (8.9 avg) and 7 TDs.
I am going out on a huge limb on this one. From strictly a talent standpoint, the Falcons are better. However, the Saints have a decided advantage at the two most important spots – QB and Head Coach. And, while Atlanta’s defense was better than NO’s in 2012, let’s not get carried away, Atlanta owned the 24th ranked defense, surrendered 5,849 yards and were one boneheaded coaching decision away from continuing their winless streak in the playoffs (I’m looking at you Pete Carroll). Given the revenge I see Payton, Brees, Ryan, and all the Saints seeking, I see a huge year from this team (remember, they were 13-3 the last time Brees and Payton were together; 2-0 against Atlanta – outscoring Atlanta 71-40 in those games).