NFL 2023 – Week 3: Unbeaten records on the line as Colorado Buffaloes take on Oregon Ducks
Buffalo Bills cornerback Christian Benford (left) and safety Micah Hyde (right) tackle Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams during the first half of an NFL football game in Orchard Park, New York, Sunday, September 17, 2023. (Photo: AP)

LAST weekend had so many sporting highlights that they would be betrayed if I made any attempt to use the minimal space this article allows to highlight them all. However, it would be remiss of me not to mention (arguably) sport's most magnetic story over the past few weeks, and the exploits of a couple of Jamaican athletes last Saturday and Sunday.

The Colorado Buffaloes, the football programme of University of Colorado Boulder, won one game last season, fired its coaching staff, and brought in Super Bowl winner and National Football League (NFL) Hall-of-Famer Deion "Primetime" Sanders to coach the team. Sanders brought his son, quarterback (QB) Shedeur Sanders, with him and in the first game of the year — on September 2 — Shedeur passed for 510 yards, giving him a single-game passing record for the team.

The team has defied the odds and has won their first three games, with the game last Saturday night against Colorado State University being watched by 9.3 million viewers in the United States — ESPN's fifth-largest audience for a college football game. That jaw-dropping number came despite a 10:00 pm start time, which made it the largest ratings ever for a late-night broadcast across ESPN's group of networks.

The Buffaloes now have a proverbial target on their back and high-stakes games are expected every week, including tomorrow when they face University of Oregon (Oregon Ducks). The Ducks are also undefeated in their first three games and are being offered by JustBet as significant favourites to emerge winners. This will likely happen but prime time has these Buffaloes stampeding, and they may circle the wagons and eke out an upset. Come what may, this should be a good watch on Saturday afternoon.

Closer to home, Shericka Jackson won the first half of a Diamond League sprint double last Saturday by winning the 100m in 10.70 seconds at the Wanda Diamond League finals in Eugene, Oregon, thus avenging her second-place finish at last month's World Championships in Budapest, Hungary as World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson could only manage fourth place. Jackson returned on Sunday to register a meet record in the women's 200m of 21.57 seconds, the eighth-fastest in history, giving her five of the top eight performances of all time.

The final stop on the international Diamond League circuit also saw Olympic champion Hansle Parchment bettering World Champion Grant Holloway of the United States in the men's 110m hurdles on Sunday. Parchment had a poor start but recovered and surged past the field for a personal best 12.93 seconds. Holloway finished second in 13.06 seconds, a few weeks after beating Parchment in Budapest to cop his third-consecutive world title.

In the NFL, two weeks have been completed in the season and a couple of performances are deserving of highlight over that span — one defence and one offence. The defence of the Dallas Cowboys has looked like a force — continuing from last season — but their potentially potent offence is yet to truly ignite. In the two games, against the New York Giants (pitching a shutout) and New York Jets, respectively, they allowed a total of just 10 points while recording 10 sacks and seven takeaways. The scoreboard reflected that they did score 40 points in the first game and 30 in the second, but a large portion of the scoring came from efforts by the defence, special teams, and kicking.

In the past two seasons the Cowboys have produced a defence that has ranked in the top three in the NFL, anchored by 24-year-old linebacker Micah Parsons who had 13.5 sacks last season, and defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. Since 2021 Dallas had led the NFL in takeaways (70), sacks (102), quarterback pressure rate (40.4 per cent), points off turnovers (243), and defensive touchdowns (10, tied with the New England Patriots).

The daunting Dallas defence take their talent on the road this Sunday to tackle winless Arizona Cardinals and enter the weekend as the most favoured team by JustBet to win. The Cardinals suffered narrow losses to the Washington Commandos and the Giants, respectively, in their first two games, and since there is no mercy rule in football this one is expected to be brutal.

On the other side of the spectrum the Miami offence hit the ground running and exploded in week 1, and QB Tua Tagovailoa was on fire. He was leading the league in passer rating before suffering concussions last season and so, amidst whisperings of possibly ending his career, perhaps has a chip on his shoulder. Coming off his 466 yards and three touchdowns in the first game, which were bolstered by the performance of the "cheetah" (Tyreek Hill), they faced the Patriots last Sunday but were not able to find the same level of offensive production. They did manage to win, after some drama at the end, and Tua became the first QB to win his first five games against New England Head Coach Bill Belichick.

Now, for the first time since 2001, the Patriots and Coach Belichick are starting a season without a win through two weeks. They will look to avoid a 0-3 start — which last happened in 2000 — when they visit the Jets on Sunday, and are favoured by JustBet to get the win. The Patriots will fondly recall, after that ill-fated 2001 start, that they ended the season with Tom Brady's first Super Bowl win. But Mac Jones is not Brady and not a lot is expected from New England this year.

On Sunday the Dolphins will play their first home game of the season against the Denver Broncos,who have also suffered extremely narrow defeats — one point and two points, respectively — in the opening weeks. JustBet (justifiably) offers them as underdogs this weekend, and there is no indication that this will be a contest in the heat of Hard Rock Stadium. Denver lost their first two games by a combined three points but if they don't play lights out this weekend the loss-margin will be in excess of a touchdown.

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