Atlanta Falcons vs Carolina Panthers preview: Falcons aim to further the gap atop the NFC South against bitter rivals
Julio Jones completes a spectacular 70-yard touchdown grab during Atlanta's 20-13 win over Carolina last season. (Source: AP Photo)

The Atlanta Falcons can extend their lead atop the NFC South on Sunday. But first, they must go through the Carolina Panthers, last season's Super Bowl runners up and the winner of the division for the past three seasons.

The Panthers currently sit tied for second place in the division with a 1-2 record, while the Falcons are in first with a 2-1 record. Everything goes out the window on Sunday as two bitter rivals square off at the Georgia Dome.

Injury Report

Atlanta Falcons: Dan Quinn has already ruled out two players ahead of Sunday's contest with rookie LB DeVondre Campbell still recovering from an ankle problem. Campbell's absence will be sorely missed in the middle of the field while backup LB Paul Worrilow continues to recover from surgery and will miss a couple more weeks.

Julio Jones seems to have overcome his multiple knocks and looks ready to go against a shaky Panthers secondary. Tevin Coleman tweaked his ankle in Monday night's win over New Orleans but was limited in practice this week as precaution and will be ready.

Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown in Week 3 as the Falcons moved to 2-1 on the season. (Source: Butch Dill/AP Photo)
Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown in Week 3 as the Falcons moved to 2-1 on the season. (Source: Butch Dill/AP Photo)

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers will head to the Georgia Dome on Sunday short of their star running back, Jonathan Stewart, as he nurses a hamstring injury for a couple more weeks.

Left tackle Michael Oher will also miss out due to a concussion, a big blow to Carolina's offensive line. Rookie DT Vernon Butler is the third Panther ruled out of the divisional matchup, while Charles Johnson is questionable.

What to Watch For

Carolina may be a team with plenty of anger behind them on Sunday. A poor start to the season (1-2) has many questioning their incredible run last season while they will be looking to avenge their lone regular season defeat from last year, a 20-13 loss at the Georgia Dome.

Matt Ryan has excelled in his opening three games so far, throwing for seven touchdowns and just one interception. The Boston College alum has also led the Falcons offense to the number one spot in points per game, total yards and total yards per game through three games.

Atlanta recorded two sacks against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football while the Panthers offensive line gave up six sacks to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3. The clash between the two will have a huge impact on whether or not Cam Newton can get into a rhythm. 

Cam Newton has had an up and down season so far but last season's MVP has always thrived against the Atlanta Falcons and the Panthers season may just get a kickstart on Sunday if their superstar QB can return to his best.

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