Falcons tight end Justin Peelle, a player who will have to know his blocking assignments on running plays, said that has made for a lot more time studying film.
"It can be tough if you're not prepared," he said.
Of course, one factor that has led to the perception of New England's not being the same team that won its first 18 games in 2007 before a stunning Super Bowl upset at the hands of the New York Giants is new personnel.
Gone from New England's 2008 team are linebacker Mike Vrabel (traded to Kansas City in the Matt Cassel deal), defensive tackle Richard Seymour (traded to Oakland for a first-round pick), linebacker Tedy Bruschi (retired) and safety Rodney Harrison (retired). In addition, two-time Pro-Bowl corner back Asante Samuel departed via free agency after the '07 season.
But Ryan said he didn't see a difference.
"The two games we've watched, they've played well," he said. "And there hasn't been a lot of points scored on them this year. They've done a great job. So, especially up front, they've got some guys who can make some plays. Vince Wilfork is one of the best players in the league and does a great job in a two-gap scheme and in 4-3 scheme so we've got our work cut out for us. And I think they've got some really good personnel."
Regardless of whether the names are the same, one still remains: Belichick. The aura and mystique of his game-planning has taken on almost legendary status.
If Smith and his Falcons can add a chink in that aura, their own esteem will only grow.
MORE FALCONS-PATRIOTS COVERAGE:
SCOUTING REPORT:Patriots defense offers unique test * FALCONCAST:J. Mike and Matt break down this week's game * INJURY REPORT:Injury news from the Falcons and Patriots * GAME CENTER:Stats and more in the NFL.com Game Center * NOTEBOOK:Wednesday news from Flowery Branch * VIDEO:Interviews and more from Falcons-Patritos Week * EXPERTS:An expert thought on the Falcons and the NFL * SUPERFAN:A smack cartoon to get you ready for gameday