Staff picks for Super Bowl LI

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Edward Lee (9-1)

Falcons 33, Patriots 27: Since the folks at EA Sports ran a Madden simulator with Tom Brady driving New England to a last-second, game-winning touchdown, that will prove true, right? Wrong. I'm going with Matt Ryan & Co. marching down the field in the final minute for the game-winning score to bring Atlanta its first Super Bowl championship.


Peter Schmuck (9-1)

Patriots 30, Falcons 23: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have built their Hall of Fame careers on their ability to figure out imposing opponents and exploit their weaknesses. Brady will do what he always does and the Patriots defense will set up a key score in the second half. Sad but true.


Jen Badie (8-2)

Patriots 35, Falcons 31: This Super Bowl sets up the best offense in points scored (Atlanta averaged 33.8 during the regular season and 40 in the postseason) vs. the best defense in points allowed (New England averaged 15.6 during the regular season and 16.5 in the postseason). Experience on this stage should give the Partriots the edge in a tight game.

Mike Preston (8-2)

Patriots 30, Falcons 27: The Falcons have a strong offense, but I am not sure about their defense. They have some playmakers, but they are young and might panic in the big game. New England is the most complete and balanced team in the NFL, and it's hard to beat Patriots head coach Bill Belichick with two weeks to prepare.

Mark Selig (8-2)

Patriots 31, Falcons 24: Atlanta's offense is terrifying. But we've seen Bill Belichick scheme against some of the most prolific offenses in league history ("The Greatest Show on Turf" Rams; all those Peyton Manning-led Colts teams). Can you really bet against Belichick and Tom Brady in a Super Bowl? Brady will do much of his work before the snap, opting to run the ball against the Falcons' small front, and will hit quick strikes to neutralize the Falcons' speed.

Childs Walker (8-2)

Patriots 31, Falcons 27: I don't expect this to be the total shootout some have forecast. We might see the Patriots deliberately slow the game down in an effort to disrupt the league's best offense. They won't stop the Falcons completely. Atlanta has too many high-end playmakers. But I ultimately lean toward New England, because Bill Belichick is the best ever at adjusting to what's happening in a given game.


Jeff Zrebiec (8-2)

Patriots, 27-17: Whether it has been the Giants over the Patriots twice, the Seahawks over the Broncos or the Broncos over the Panthers, several of the recent Super Bowls have been decided by dominant defensive efforts. The Patriots clearly have the better defense. And giving Bill Belichick and Tom Brady two weeks to prepare, even against a team as hot as the Falcons, almost isn't fair.