We are at the midway point of the 2013 season so it's time for the Raiders midseason Ballers & Busters. This is where we tally up those players whose performances have been the most Baller worthy as well as those who have been the most Buster worthy.
The Raiders are 3-5 on the season but just as the wins brought heroes, they also had those who nearly blew it for them. And just as the losses have those to blame, there are also those who deserve a pat on the back for performing well despite things falling apart around them.
Here are those players at the midway point of the season.
A five-time Baller including one-time Top Baller. Being named the midseason Top Baller was not something I had envisioned for Denarius Moore. First of all, every indication I got from training camp was that Rod Streater would be the top target in this offense. But Denarius has really turned it around. He went from doing his own thing last season to the detriment of the passing game to making sure he was not only on the same page as the quarterback but improvising along with him as well. In some ways, Moore had no choice. Terrelle Pryor does a lot of improvising. If Denarius didn't break off his routes and either come back to the ball or find an open area, he wasn't going to get the ball very often. That's just survival 101. But he has done more than survive, he's thrived.
Now at the halfway point of the season, Moore is easily on pace for his best season. He has 32 catches for 513 yards with 4 touchdowns. You don't have to be a match wiz to see he is on pace for 64 catches 1026 yards and 8 touchdowns.
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.
A four-time Baller including one-time Top Baller. I would call him the best player on this Raiders team on either side of the ball. He was the Top Baller right out the gates against the Colts in week one and hasn't shown signs of stopping. He leads the team with 4.0 sacks on the season. And while that may not seem like a lot, he does so much more than just sacks. He leads all 4-3 defensive ends this season with 28 solo tackles. Most of those tackles are run stuffs. That's where he sets himself apart from the league's sack specialists. While they have their sights on racking up their sack numbers, Houston is an all-around great player.
While in the week 5 win over the Chargers, he was outshined by Kevin Burnett's gaudy tackle numbers, Houston put together one of his best games. He had 7 combined tackles, a sack, 2 tackles for loss and a QB hurry.
A five-time Baller and one-time Honorable Mention. Denarius Moore may have stepped up and claimed the number one receiver job on this team but Streater has had a pretty solid season for the Raiders all his own. Much like his possession receiver status, he was never Top Baller but he has quietly been a very steady performer. He consistently does the dirty work, moving the chains and being available for Terrelle Pryor when he needs a reliable target. He is also a very good blocker. He laid a key block to spring McFadden in week two for his longest run of the season (30 yards).
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 last week against the Eagles in which he took a short slant pass for 66 yards and nearly scored. He finished with his best receiving numbers of the season - 5 catches for 98 yards. Streater needs just 11 catches for 167 yards to eclipse his rookie season total of 2012.
Tony Pashos, Matt McCants
These two combined as five-time Ballers. It seems no matter who the Raiders have plugged in at right tackle, they have been stellar. Pashos began the season as the starting right tackle and was outstanding. He went down with a groin and later a hip injury and McCants took his place and he too played outstanding. Both Pashos and McCants were picked up off other team's scrap pile after the final roster cutdowns and both have proven more than worthy of having a job in the NFL.
A three-time Baller including two-time Top Baller. It's odd to think of a backup running back as a midseason Baller. That should tell you just how impressive he's been that he's been able to make this list despite taking a backseat to Darren McFadden most of the season thus far. Both times Jennings has entered the game in place of the injured McFadden, he has been 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 last week against the Eagles when he ran for ove4 100 yards while averaging 6.8 yards per carry with a touchdown. He also caught 7 balls for 74 yards. He will get the start this week against the Giants so we will get to see how the running game functions with a player who is among the best in the league in yards after contact.
A three-time Baller including one-time Top Baller. His value to the team can only partially be measured by his stats on the field. But in that arena, he is still a Baller. He leads the team with two takeaways (interception and forced fumble) and is third in tackles (45). He has also recovered two fumbles this season, one which he returned for a touchdown.
A three-time Baller. After a slow start to the season, he has come on strong of late. He has really found his footing in this defense. It started in week four when he had several key tackles and recovered his second forced fumble of the season. The following week he blew up for 14 combined tackles (12 solo) with a sack and a forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Being part of three turnovers in three weeks is no accident. He was back among the Ballers last week against the Eagles as one of the few defensive standouts with three tackles for loss and tying for the team lead in combined tackles.
A three-time Baller. Came on strong late, making the Baller list in three straight weeks. He showed that when he has a good game, the Raiders tend to win. Two of his three Baller nods came in wins over the Chargers and Steelers. He has begun showing some good pass rush ability and after beginning the season without a single solo tackle in the first three weeks (3 assists), he has 15 solo tackles since then. He has been a big part of the reason the Raiders have one of the top run stopping defenses in the league. He and the rest of the defensive line has a bad game last week but if he can get back on track, he is well on his way to showing himself as a great asset to this team.
Tracy Porter -- Two-time Baller. He had a very good month of October and is shaping up as the best cornerback on this team. Some more prolonged fine play from him and I could see him as a regular among the Ballers.
Pat Sims - He doesn't get a lot of glory as the big man in the middle but his contributions can't be overlooked. He doesn't have a lot of tackles because running backs see his big body clogging their running lane and the immediately look elsewhere.
A four-time Baller but also a three-time Buster including twice a Top Buster. The last time he had a great overall game was the week five win over the Chargers. Since then, he has had really one great play - the NFL record 93-yard touchdown run against the Steelers in week 8.
After a pretty poor showing in a win over the Jaguars in week two, Pryor began showing some surprising pocket presence the following week in a loss to the Broncos. His play peaked in that stellar week 5 performance in which he threw for a 44-yard touchdown on the first play of the game and drove the Raiders for another touchdown on their second possession. This including starting the game 10 for 10 for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He couldn't keep it up the remainder of the game but he also didn't blow it with a stupid mistake.
Then he went from his best game to his worst game the following week in Kansas City. He was shaken out of his comfort zone early and his play took a dive after that. He was sacked 9 times in that game with the final three of them being his own fault because he panicked and left a clean pocket. He also threw three interceptions.
During those three games from week 3-5, he looked as if he was going to make steady progress in his quarterback skills. Since then, his progress seems to have leveled off. Even at his fantastic rate of progress before, he still has a long way to go which means he must get back on track with his pocket presence and mechanics or he will be in for a rough second half to the season.