3 key matchups: Falcons at Panthers

Credit: Bill Kostroun

Credit: Bill Kostroun

Here are three key matchups in the NFC South game between the Falcons (4-3, 0-0) and the Carolina Panthers (5-3, 1-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte:

Falcons LT Jake Matthews vs. Panthers DE Julius Peppers: The Falcons have done a decent job of protecting quarterback Matt Ryan, but will face a stiff test from the Panthers. Peppers, 37, still has some gas left in the tank. He can still turn the corner and make days miserable for quarterbacks. The Panthers have 27 sacks, which ranks second in the NFL behind Jacksonville's 33. Peppers has 7.5 sacks.

Falcons RBs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman vs. Panthers LB Luke Kuechly: The Falcons have rushed for more than 100 yards in six consecutive games. Coleman had 14 carries for a team-high 82 yards against the Jets. He had a 52-yard run in the fourth quarter – the second longest run of his career. Coleman and Freeman teamed for 165 total yards against the Jets. That was the third time this season the duo has combined for 150-plus total yards. Kuechly, who returned to action last week after a stint in the concussion protocol, leads the unit that is giving up 81.6 rushing yards per game, which ranks fifth in the league. Kuechly has 54 tackles, a forced fumble and two interceptions.

Falcons TE Austin Hooper vs Panthers SS Kurt Coleman: Hooper has 22 catches for 295 yards and two touchdowns. Hooper had a major drop against Miami and one in the end zone last week against the Jets. "We would like to have the one to (Austin) Hooper where we thought we had a chance to have a good score there," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "He came back to make one up, but he'd like to have that one back." Coleman has 29 tackles and a fumble recovery.