Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers: Full game preview

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Nov 16, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) with the ball as Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman (24) defends in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

What to watch

Pass protection vs. Panthers front seven

It’s absolutely critical the Falcons protect Matt Ryan in this game. The Panthers are tied for No. 3 in the league for sacks with 35. If Ryan is hit too many times, it’s going to be tough to establish any kind of groove on offense, and the risk of turnovers increases.

Quick, short passes, extra tight ends in the formation, running the football more often. Whatever it takes. The Falcons’ pass protection up against a sack-heavy defense will be key to the game.

Julio Jones vs. Josh Norman

Julio Jones will draw a lot of attention from one of the best corners in the game, Josh Norman. The Falcons may look to move Jones around and exploit more favorable matchups, but you can bet these two will see plenty of each other on Sunday.

The winner of this battle will go a long way to determining the winner of the ballgame.

Falcons run defense vs. Panthers run offense

Before Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin had big days against the Falcons the past two weeks, Atlanta owned the No. 1 run defense. They will need to get back on track to shut down one of the best rushing teams in the NFL.

A strength of the Atlanta defense is its ability to stop the run, and that’s what makes this matchup so intriguing.

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