The New Orleans Saints head back to where the season started, and where they hope to end it: Minnesota.
The New Orleans quarterback said Monday both teams are so different from the Week 1 matchup that there isn't a ton to take away from the first tilt.
"It's night and day," Brees said, via the New Orleans Advocate. "You're still trying to find yourself, you're still trying to establish your identity, so that feels like ages and ages ago."
The Saints still employed Adrian Peterson at the time of the first meeting, as Sean Payton tried to balance his new backfield. After trading the former MVP to Arizona, New Orleans took off with the best one-two backfield punch in the NFL, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. The Saints finished with 60 total rushing yards in Week 1 on 21 attempts. For the season, they averaged 129.4 yards per game on the ground, with Ingram and Kamara proving deadly out of the backfield.
The Saints' passing game was also a work in progress in the opening matchup. Ted Ginn Jr. was still figuring out his role before morphing into a big-play target. Willie Snead was suspended for the first tilt, and Kamara had yet to become a cardiac-arrest-inducing force in the passing game.
"We didn't know what we had in store when we came out of this deal at the beginning of the year," Ginn said. "We messed around with a lot of options and a lot of different players and different things like that. As the season went on, we kind of found our mojo and who we are."
The Saints' defense also hadn't found itself the last time it played in Minnesota. Rookie Marshon Lattimore wasn't yet a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, Ken Crawley was a backup, rookie safety Marcus Williams hadn't been upgraded to heat-seeking missile, and New Orleans had yet to suffer a bundle of injuries.
The Vikings have also changed a lot from Week 1. Sam Bradford played splendidly in the opening game. It was his last full tilt of the season. But Case Keenum took over and Minnesota's offense continued to flourish. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook set a Vikings record for rushing yards in a debut versus the Saints, 127 yards on 22 totes. He tore his ACL weeks later. In stepped Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon to power a balanced Viking offense to a playoff bye.
"I think both teams are different," coach Sean Payton said. "There are some similarities in regards to scheme, but I think when you go through a course of an NFL season and you look at the attrition that takes place, there are eight or nine of our starters that are playing in that game that aren't playing in this game and I'm sure the same exists for Minnesota and you begin to take shape as the season progresses to who you become, and I think both teams have done that."
Both teams developed into NFC powers along the 2017 road. They meet Sunday in Minneapolis, the same squads that squared off in Week 1, but playing wholly different.