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Buffs in the NFL: Colorado stars impact playoff picture

Nate Landman has burst onto the scene.

NFL: DEC 24 Colts at Falcons Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL is currently in Week 17, meaning there’s only two more weeks of regular season football to play. It’s a good time to take a look at which former Colorado Buffaloes are making an impact in the pros. Some new Buffaloes have cemented themselves as legit NFL talent, while some of the mainstay NFL Buffs have ended up in unexpected places. Now, let’s recap the 2023 NFL season in terms of our former players.

Nate Landman, ILB, Atlanta Falcons

After going undrafted in 2022, the Falcons saw something in the Colorado inside linebacker and decided to take a chance on him. Following injuries to Atlanta’s linebacking core, Landman was given the opportunity to start and hasn’t disappointed.

Landman, who earned the nickname “The Hammer” for his signature big hits, was incredible for Colorado from 2017 to 2021. He recorded 409 tackles, 11 sacks and 4 picks during his time as a Buffs. Now, Landman has proven he has that it takes to succeed in the pros and has absolutely balled out.

During 14 games with the Dirty Birds, Landman has cemented himself as one of Atlanta’s best defenders. “The Hammer” has racked up 82 tackles (44 of which were solo), as well as 2 sacks. The highlight of Landman’s season came during week 10 against the Cardinals, when he picked off Kyler Murray and returned the ball 25 yards. Landman has been one of the leading forces on Atlanta’s defense, helping to keep them in the playoff race up to this point.

Landman is currently campaigning to get to the Pro Bowl with the help of the Falcons’ social media team. The last time that the NFL made the voting data public, Nate was sitting at second place amongst all NFC inside linebackers. It looks like Colorado has another NFL stud to cheer for and we couldn’t be happier to see Nate find so much success with the Falcons.

Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Cincinatti Bengals

The former CU cornerback has had an up and down season with Cincinnati in 2023. In Boulder, Awuzie recorded 265 total tackles and 3 picks. Since his arrival in Cincy in 2021, Awuzie has emerged as the Bengals best defensive back.

However, 2023 has been a bit bumpy for Chidobe. This was supposed to be a major comeback year for Awuzie after he tore his ACL in week 8 of the 2022 season. The former CU corner was able to return for Week 1, but clearly wasn't 100%. Chido had a few rough games to start the season, as his knee was slowing him down a bit and he was still playing himself back into shape.

Just when Awuzie seemed to be finding his footing, he herniated a disc in his back during practice and missed 3 more weeks of action. After returning to the field, Chidobe has strung together some solid games. Statistically, this season has been a bit of a down year for the former Buffaloes cornerback. Still, what Awuzie has been able to do is very impressive considering the circumstances. The Bengals are trying to claw their way into the AFC’s final wildcard spot and Chidobe is going to play a big part in that effort during these last two games.

Akhello Witherspoon, CB, Los Angeles Rams

After former Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey was traded to Miami in the offseason, LA’s brass decided to bring in the former Colorado cornerback to try to fill the void left by one of the league’s top defensive backs. Taking over for a player like Ramsey is a very difficult and daunting task, but Witherspoon has exceeded all expectation thus far.

Witherspoon has had a career year in LA this season. Akhello currently has three interceptions this season, one of which very well could be the best INT of 2023. While the Rams’ defense has been shaky all season, Witherspoon has been a steady and reliable force.

The Rams currently sit as the NFC’s sixth seed and will rely on Witherspoon’s coverage if they go on any run during the playoffs. Look forward to (likely) seeing a former Buff in the playoffs!

Congrats to Akhello for his stellar season in 2023. We can never thank him enough for securing Colorado’s only win against Oregon with his clutch last-minute interception in the end zone.

Isaiah Oliver, CB, San Francisco 49ers

San Fran’s defensive is absolutely loaded with top-of-the-line talent. To add to the unit’s immense depth, former Buff Isaiah Oliver has found a way to make an impact on one of the NFL’s best defenses.

After spending the last five seasons with the Falcons, Oliver signed with the Niners as a free agent. The Niners have been using Oliver as their nickel-corner, which has worked out well for both parties.

Oliver has played in 14 of the Niners’ 15 games so far, where he started in 5 of which. The former Buff has recorded 43 tackles and one pick, which tipped the scales in the 49ers’ Week 2 win over the Rams. Oliver is more of a situational corner for the Niners and excels in that nickel slot when he’s called upon, which makes that San Fran unit even more scary.

San Fran had already clinched their division and looks poised to make a deep playoff run, so good luck to Isaiah in the playoffs!

Mason Crosby, K, New York Giants

Colorado’s all-time points leader has had a massive change of scenery in 2023. After spending the last 16 years kicking for the Green Bay Packers, the organization decided to move on from Crosby after the 2022 season.

After spending a 6 day stint on the Rams’ practice squad from Dec. 6th through 12th, the New York Giants signed Crosby to kick for them after having to put three kickers on IR already this season.

Crosby played in the Giants’ Christmas Day game against the Eagles, where the 39 year old hit a 52 yard field goal. New York ended up losing the game 25-33, but Crosby was perfect in his sole NFL game in 2023 thus far. It’s good to see that the Colorado legend still has it. Crosby will likely kick for the Giants for their last two games, so make sure you watch the former Buff kick because this could be the final ride for Mason.

The season technically isn’t over yet, as there’s another two regular season season games left and the entire playoffs, but we’ve got a really good picture on the future of what these former Buffs could look like in the pros. Congrats to those who’ve had a fantastic season thus far and good luck to everyone in the current playoff push!