I've learned plenty about the matchup this week from candid conversations with three coordinators, one head coach and a defensive assistant. Here are the game predictions and insights directly from those in the know.
Note: Four of the five coaches faced the Falcons and/or Patriots this season, while the fifth has big-game experience against the Patriots and has studied both teams since his own season ended.
1. Defensive coordinator
In big games, I always begin with the defensive side. Atlanta's defense has been playing well because it has been getting production out of its edge rushers, but when you look at New England, the Patriots don't worry about the outside guys. They will let those guys run by, and Tom [Brady] will just step up in the pocket.
If you remember when New York beat New England [in Super Bowl 42], sure, [Michael] Strahan and Osi [Umenyiora] had great games, but [Justin] Tuck was really the guy who gave the Patriots issues inside. If Tom can't step up because there are issues inside, then it becomes more challenging for them. But in the Pittsburgh-New England game last week, I kept looking at the center-guard-guard battle and those guys stayed stout the whole time. They protect the spot. If Tom can sit on that spot long enough, some of those guys will get open.
I think New England will be able to do a little bit more against Atlanta's defense than Atlanta will do against New England's defense, although I do think Atlanta will move the ball. Atlanta has enough headaches with those backs and Julio [Jones] that it will give the Patriots some issues. It will come down to how well the Patriots play in the red zone.
The pick: Patriots