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Versus: Raiders defense looking to get after big, physical Colts offense

The Las Vegas Raiders will need to have all hands on deck this Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

This will be the squad's last away game of the regular season as they continue to fight for their playoff lives. While the Silver and Black are riding the high of two straight wins over divisional opponents, the Colts will be a difficult matchup considering their strength and size in the trenches. The main goal for the Raiders when they step into Lucas Oil Stadium is to bring physicality to their opponent.

Nate Hobbs vs. Michael Pittman Jr.

Jack Jones has been making headlines with his two latest pick-sixes, but Nate Hobbs has been holding it down well on the other side of the field for the Raiders secondary. While boasting an 81.2 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus, he's also making plays on the ball in coverage. He's compiled four pass deflections in the past seven games, while playing 100 percent of snaps and notching a season-high nine solo tackles against the Chiefs last Monday.

"Nate's explosive," Antonio Pierce said. "The maturity. I mean, we've moved him around quite a bit here over the last two years – corner, star, nickel – and he really makes his money inside. He's a very violent football player, he's explosive. He can tackle in space, he can cover, he's a good blitzer. When you look at Nate, I think it's just the game slowing down for him."

Hobbs, along with Jones and Amik Robertson, will be tasked with squaring off against the Colts' top receiver Michael Pittman, who was cleared Friday from concussion protocol. The former USC standout has developed into one of more underrated receivers in the game with his 6-foot-4 frame giving a size advantage on most of the cornerbacks he lines up against. He leads the Colts' receiving corps in yards (1062), catches (99) and touchdowns (four).

Tyree Wilson vs. Quenton Nelson

The Raiders' first-round pick will line up against arguably the best guard in the league in Quenton Nelson.

The Colts' left guard has been a consistent presence in their offense over the past six seasons with five Pro Bowl nods and three All-Pro selections to his name. Through 15 games in 2023, he's allowed only one sack.

As for Tyree Wilson, he's been coming along well late in the season as an interior defensive lineman. While he's still primarily an edge rusher, the Raiders defense has found great use for him on the inside with Maxx Crosby and Malcolm Koonce rushing from the outside. Wilson had eight total tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery in his last three games.

"You've got length and bodies and guys that can rush," Pierce said of Wilson and the defensive line. "You get a guy like we got last week [Patrick Mahomes], and another quarterback will face this week [Gardner Minshew], they can move around. As we talked about mobility that can buy time, well you can't buy time when you got speed and you're chasing him. He'll get tired eventually and we'll catch up and then we've got to pound him."

Greg Van Roten vs. DeForest Buckner

DeForest Buckner will wreck a game if you let him.

The massive 6-foot-7, 295-pounder towers over offensive lineman and does a little bit of everything. He can stop the run, with nine tackles for loss this season. He can get after the quarterback, with six sacks and 16 quarterback hits. Every inch in his long frame has come in handy as he's second on the team in pass deflections (seven). It's also the second most pass deflections for any defensive lineman this season.

Keeping Buckner away from Aidan O'Connell will be pivotal for the Raiders, with guard Greg Van Roten being asked to answer the bell. The 33-year-old veteran is enjoying one of his best seasons to date, starting 15 games. His 79.1 Pro Football Focus pass blocking grade is also fifth-highest among guards. Van Roten's physicality has flourished in the trenches, including a nice pancake block on Chiefs' All-Pro tackle Chris Jones. He'll need to up the ante against a foe like Buckner.

View photos of past matchups between the Raiders and the Indianapolis Colts as the Silver and Black prepare for their Week 17 matchup.

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