The 2013 season is finally over. I've given you all five days to recover so now it's time to take a look at who the best and the worst were for the season. In the end, you might find there is more good news than you had anticipated, so buck up. Consider the Busters as an exercise in catharsis.
Jennings started eight games, though the final start doesn't really count because he was given only four carries in that game. So, technically he started seven games and was a Baller seven times. Of those seven games, he was Top Baller four times. Early in the season he was making the Ballers despite being a backup to Darren McFadden. Both times Jennings entered the game in place of the injured McFadden, he was named Top Baller. The first time was week 4 when Jennings blocked a punt that was recovered for a touchdown and was the Raiders leading receiver (8 catches for 71 yards). The last time was week 9 against the Eagles when he ran for over 100 yards while averaging 6.8 yards per carry with a touchdown. He also caught 7 balls for 74 yards. He continued his brilliance in the second half of the season to lock down the Raiders' starting running back job. Over the final eight games, he was a Baller four times and Top Baller three times. He finished the season with 733 yards on the ground with six touchdowns. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry while McFadden finished with his second consecutive season averaging 3.3 yards per carry.
A consistent, steady receiver in the Raiders' offense. He was a Baller nine times this season, although never Top Baller. When Denarius Moore went down with injury, he assumed the number one receiver role. In the end, he came within reach of 1000 yards (888) but with the uncertainty at quarterback, it made it difficult to really put up great numbers.
His biggest catch of the season came in the week five win over the Chargers. It was a 44-yard touchdown. His longest catch of the season came in week 8 against the Eagles in which he took a short slant pass for 66 yards and nearly scored. His best game of the season came in week 14 against the Jets in which he caught seven balls for 130 yards and a touchdown.
A five-time Baller including one-time Top Baller early in the season but then he went down injured and couldn't get it back in the end of the season. He had gotten very good at working back to the quarterback with Terrelle Pryor being one to improvise things much of the time.
At the halfway point of the season, Moore was on pace for his best season. He had 32 catches for 513 yards with 4 touchdowns at the midway point. Those numbers had him on pace for over 1000 yards.
His best game was in week three when he caught 6 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. From there he strung together four straight games of fantastic play that saw him named a Baller each week. Three of those weeks were against division rivals including the big win over the Chargers in which he had 5 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. He would play one more full game healthy before going down with a shoulder injury. He would return for the final three games of the season but worked his way back into the offense behind Rod Streater and Andre Holmes on the depth chart. Still, he was a crucial part of all four of the Raiders wins this season.
Simply a steady run clogger all season long. Nose tackles don't make a lot of flashy plays and therefore don't get a lot of headlines. But in week 16, Sims made some ink when he posted 15 tackles (10 solo) which is nearly unheard of for a defensive tackle. That week, he was the only Baller. It was just his second Baller nod of the season but he had received a couple honorable mentions earlier in the season for overall solid play. The most impressive thing about his 15 tackles was that it happened in week 16. After nearly an entire season as the full time starter for the first time in his career, he was still out there making plays. The biggest concern about him when he was signed was if he could hold up for an entire game, let alone an entire season. He answered that question in that game. He finished the season in the top 15 in stops among defensive tackles.
Considerably underutilized in the offense with Terrelle Pryor behind center, he started to see his touches go up later in the season. With McGloin in the game, Reece would see the ball a lot more often as a receiver where he could show off his game breaking abilities. Then when Rashad Jennings was out with a concussion, Reece got the start against the Jets in week 14 and blew up the spot. He rushed 19 times for 123 yards and a touchdown in that game including breaking off a huge 63-yard run in which he outran the entire Jets defense. They're not used to seeing a fullback with those kind of wheels. I believe he punched his ticket to a second consecutive Pro Bowl with that performance. He finished the season with 549 yards of offense and four touchdowns along with some solid blocking as well.
What began as an up and down season for King, turned out quite good in the end. He was a Baller twice early in the season but was also a Buster twice. If you just look at his stats, he wouldn't be Baller worthy. He would be more in the realm of Betweener. While he led the NFL in gross punting average (48.9), he was second in the NFL in touchbacks (11). But there is a saying I stand by in Ballers; "It's not how you start, but how you finish that matters." King got better and more consistent as the season went on. He had 8 touchbacks in the first half of the season; he has had just 3 since then. He had 9 punts stopped or downed inside the 20-yard line in the first half of the season; that number was up to 14 in the second half. That better second half of the season had him named a Baller two more times. The Raiders took a chance on this converted wide receiver and from the looks of things, he is making good on their faith in his abilities.
Houston came firing out the gates to show himself to be every bit the "elite" player Dennis Allen said he was. He was a four-time Baller including one-time Top Baller. He had a sacks every other game the first eight weeks to lead the team with 4.0 sacks. Then opposing offense began keying on him and his pass rush abilities were nearly neutralized. Up until the final game of the season, he had had just one sack since week seven. In the end he still led the team with 6.0 sacks on the season (a career best) and led all 4-3 defensive ends with 54 solo tackles on the season. He finished the season on a high note as the only Baller in an otherwise route at the hands of the Broncos. The Raiders would like to get more pass rush from him but much of that depends on the play of the man next to him. When Vance Walker was playing well, Lamarr Houston was playing well. The Raiders also desperately need to bookend him with a pass rusher so as to not allow opposing offenses to focus only on defending him all the time. That is, of course, if he is back with the Raiders next season.
Kevin Burnett -- A very strong first half of the season had him a three-time Baller. The second half of the season was rocky though, as it was for most of the defense. He was a Baller twice more and a Buster twice as well. The main reason for his shaky second half play was tackling. He has all the instincts and fire you want in a player. Being part of three turnovers in three weeks is proof of that. But wrapping up has been an issue and those missed tackles started to catch up to him late in the season. His best tackling day came against his former team, the Chargers, when he blew up for 14 combined tackles (12 solo) with a sack and a forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Andre Holmes - He worked himself up from obscurity and early season suspension to being named the starter at midseason in place of the injured Denarius Moore. He responded by catching 7 passes for 136 yards against his former team in Dallas. With just four starts this season, he caught 25 passes for 431 yards and a touchdown. This big bodied receiver looks like he could be a real find with his solid route running, leaping ability and catching radius.
Khalif Barnes - Barnes didn't get a lot of love in the Ballers & Busters this season. He more often was named a Buster - four times, as a matter of fact. But he gets an honorable mention for saving the Raiders bacon this year. When Jared Veldheer was lost to his triceps injury and then Menelik Watson went down with his calf injury, Barnes switched to left tackle. He had his issues but I've seen much worse. Then when Veldheer came back, Barnes shifted inside and saved the Raiders from the Lucas Nix starting at left guard. That deserves some kudos for sure.
If Wiz was judged based solely on his run and pass blocking, he would be a Baller. That would be great if he were a guard, but as the center, he must also snap the ball, and that became quite an issue for him this season. His errant snaps caused several fumbles, including three that were recovered by the opposing team in scoring position.
Even putting Porter as a Betweener was tough because he was named a Buster five times, which is one more time than he'd been named a Baller (4) and three of those Busters were Top Buster. He struggled with the rest of the Raiders secondary but at times he made some nice plays as well, including two interceptions on the season, one returned for a touchdown in week 10 against the Giants. He was very hit or miss which is what this category is for.