By Rahul Lal
Sports personality Jason Fitz is two things above almost anything else: an obsessed NFL fan and an optimistic Raiders junkie.
On The Jason Fitz Show, which is available on CBS Radio’s Play.it podcast network, he highlighted what NFL fans can look forward to this season, paying special attention to his Oakland Raiders, the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.
Every season, Raiders fans (myself included) predict a noticeable improvement in the team’s record and, probably more importantly, caliber of play. This season, however, non-Raiders fans are predicting the same.
“It feels like a jump, right? I mean, it has to,” Fitz said. “They built through the draft, they drafted well, you’ve all seen it, all the conversation about Derek Carr, all the praise for Derek Carr.”
Carr has been called one of the most talented and quickly developing quarterbacks in the league by many pundits and even some of the game’s greats.(Brett Favre said as much recently.) His development, along with that of other young building blocks such as the dominant linebacker Khalil Mack and speedy receiver Amari Cooper, is pivotal. But the team’s offseason moves may prove just as important.
“The biggest reason for excitement is probably the changes on the offensive line,” he explained. “What you’re looking at now is a team that had some holes and they decided to address them… it takes time. There are several steps.”
Just how good can the Raiders be?
“This should be a team competitive enough to look towards a 10-win season, that’s the hope,” Fitz reasoned. “I wouldn’t be surprised with a nine-win season but 10 wins is the hope.”
Safe to say the black hole will have some fun this season regardless of record.
Both Giants and Cowboys fans also have reasons to be optimistic this season. The Giants suffered to a slew of close losses in 2015, while the Cowboys fans fell victim to multiple injuries among their top players.
“There are teams that take a big leap,” Fitz said. But I find that a lot of those teams are either exceptional teams that have one bad year in the middle of many good ones or they’re teams that everything just sort of rolled their way. They had one good year in the middle of many bad ones. Exceptions happen.”
Both the Giants and Cowboys are good teams who had one bad year.
“I think the New York football Giants are poised to take a step this year. The offense ranked number eight in the league last year, number eight. Defense? Dead last,” he elaborated. “Nine of their 10 losses were by a touchdown or less… this is a football team that, despite having a disgusting defense, managed to lose nine of their 10 games by less than a touchdown.”
The Giants went out and reloaded with some flashy moves this offseason, paying top dollar to revamp with veteran forces Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard on the defensive side of the ball.
As for the NFC East rival Cowboys, their poor season was a product of the injuries sustained by Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, among others.
“If your favorite football team today loses their best wide receiver and their starting quarterback for a large portion of the season, how good would your team be?” he asked. “The fact is, you’ve got to think that if they can stay healthy, this is a team that plays Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore. There are some winnable games on the schedule if they’re a competitive team and doing what we think they can do.”
To hear more about these predictions and opinions, listen to the latest episode of The Jason Fitz Show.
Rahul Lal is an LA native stuck in a lifelong, love-hate relationship with the Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter here.