ATLANTA, Ga – The NFL should be pulling for the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, according to a local sports marketing and analytics professor.

“The league was probably hoping for a Green Bay-New England Super Bowl, but if I’m the NFL, I’d love for the Falcons to win,” said Mike Lewis, an associate professor of marketing at Emory University's Goziueta business school. “The NFL has a lot of premier markets in New England, the Southwest and Los Angeles, but if the Falcons win, that could open a huge market that could become a premium, long-term brand for the league.”

As trash talk between Atlanta and Boston continues escalating before the big game, Lewis has studied which city has the best fans.

For now, that answer is Boston.

But the ATL is on the rise.

“Over the last few years I’ve pulled a variety of public data on fan response across all sports and cities,” said Lewis. “In the NFL, the New England Patriots and Boston are phenomenally strong sports marketing entities.

"Atlanta is a solid, up-and-coming market.”

The NFL Fan Equity Rankings examines attendance, prices and revenues; basically, how fans financially support their team. Lewis found the real quality of a sports brand is revealed when fans support a team through the tough times.

So who has the best fans? The 2015 winner was the Dallas Cowboys. Lewis said the Cowboys have a storied history, a market that loves all forms of football and a world-class stadium.

New England ranked second, and Atlanta came in at No. 20.

Lewis also has looked at social media to determine which fans had the most “fan equity” in their brand. Pittsburgh, Dallas and New England ranked one, two and three, respectively, while Atlanta was No. 27.

Lewis said Atlantans shouldn't be discouraged by his findings.

“Teams that do well in these rankings have long histories of tradition and championships,” he said. “There are lots of championships in the New York and New England areas, while Atlanta has only one,” that being the 1995 Atlanta Braves.

That, however, could change on Sunday, Feb. 5.