A lot of players have said it and many fans believe it. The media, they're a different story, but for the most part, the Falcons have been described this season as "different," mainly different from the 2010 team that also finished first in the NFC and also had a first-round bye with home-field advantage through the playoffs.
So what's different about this year's team from the last No. 1 seeded team from Atlanta that lost their first playoff game? There's less that's different than you might think.
The 13-3 Falcons of 2010 finished fifth in the NFL in scoring, averaging 25.9 points per game. The 2012 team finished seventh, averaging 26.2 points per game.
The 2010 Falcons finished fifth in defensive scoring, allowing opponents an average of 18 points per game and this season they finished fifth, allowing 18.7 points to opponents.
Collectively in 2010 the Falcons finished third in the NFL in takeaway margin, plus-14. They ended this season at plus-13, good for fifth in the NFL.
Those are a handful of similarities, so what's different this year to prevent them from repeating what's happened in the past?
“I think the biggest difference is we have a lot of guys who were part of the teams in the past that didn’t get it done," linebacker
The Falcons are actually a little younger in terms of average age this season as opposed to 2010. Two years ago the Falcons were an average of 27.2 years old and this year's team is 26.8.
There are two key differences to the roster however, that echoes what Weatherspoon believes. Atlanta's years of experience in 2010 was 4.2 and this season it's 4.5 years.
In a league of nearly constant turnover, Atlanta's continuity of its roster is very impressive and is a primary reason why they appear to have taken a step forward in a season where so much on paper appears to be the same. Of the 52 players the Falcons had on their 2010 roster, 30 of them are still with the Falcons and many of them continue to play key roles.
Of the 22 starters on that team, 15 remain as starters for this year's team. One of them that didn't start that season, Weatherspoon, is now a starter in his third season.
Ultimately the major difference is that it's a different year, which is why they play things out every season. Two new coordinators came to Atlanta this season and helped move the franchise forward. Now they enter the playoffs in a very similar position as they did in 2010, but with a different mindset, which begins with each new season.
“It’s a different year," left guard