Naples, Italy (Sportsbook Betting Lines) - First-half goals from Marek Hamsik and Paolo Cannavaro propelled Napoli to a 2-0 win over Catania at the San Paolo Stadium on Saturday, allowing the home side to move level with Juventus at the Serie A summit. Juventus will try to regain the lead on Sunday at Chievo, but Napoli appears to be ready to challenge the defending champions as the club has now captured 16 of a possible 18 points from its six most recent contests.
Hamsik had a hand in the second goal as well shortly before halftime when his corner kick was played into the six-yard box, where Cannavaro redirected it home with his right foot.
Turin, Italy - Torino saw its unbeaten streak reach seven games in Serie A on Saturday, but the home side was held to a 0-0 draw by Sampdoria.
The best opportunities for either side fell to Torino in the first half as Alessio Cerci went close midway through the opening half before a header from Paulo Barreto skimmed off the crossbar.
Torino moves 10 points clear of the drop zone with the result, while Sampdoria is seven points clear of the bottom three.
Ajax doubled its lead just after the hour mark through Viktor Fischer before Derk Boerrigter wrapped up the affair nine minutes from time.
Twente was reduced to 10 men just before the halftime interval, and while Dusan Tadic netted a brace for the home side, Utrecht cruised to victory behind goals from Jens Toornstra, Jacob Mulenga, Davy Bulthuis and Mike van der Hoorn.
Leverkusen, Germany (Sportsbook Betting Lines) - Robert Lewandowski continued his fine season by scoring the game-winning goal in Borussia Dortmund's 3-2 defeat of Bayer Leverkusen at the BayArena on Sunday. The Polish striker brought his league scoring tally to 12 goals on the season to break a 2-2 deadlock just after the hour mark, lifting Dortmund above Leverkusen and into second place in the Bundesliga table.
Dortmund has won four straight Bundesliga matches to improve to 39 points, two points clear of Leverkusen, which is winless in its last two league outings.
Stefan Reinartz had brought Leverkusen level with goals in the 57th and 61st minutes, his first tallies of the season. But Dortmund answered thanks to Lewandowski's telling strike in the 62nd minute.
BILLS (+10) at Steelers SPORTSBOOK LINES
It's impossible to gauge how a team will react after something like the Steve Everett situation, and it probably doesn't matter. That being said, the Bills are going to lose several games this year where they keep things close but fall short in the end to superior teams. Ben Roethlisberger and company could have a field day against Buffalo's decimated defense, but I like the Bills to cover.
BENGALS (-7) at Browns SPORTSBOOK LINES
All you can ask out of your NFL team is that it has a plan. You may not always agree with it as a fan, but as long as it appears the organization is going in some sort of direction, you have to go with it. Which brings us to the Cleveland Browns. You flip a coin to determine whether Chuck Frye or Derek Anderson should start the preseason opener. You start Frye in Week 1, but pull him in the first half. And then you deal him to the Seahawks for a sixth-round pick? Hmm... the Bengals could get six turnovers again this week.
COLTS (-7) at Titans SPORTSBOOK LINES
Tennessee signed ex-Colts cornerback Nick Harper in the offseason so that should help slow down Peyton Manning. Just ask Jason David and the Saints. Oh wait... One of these weeks, I'm going to learn to not pick against Tennessee, which has won seven of its last eight games. But it's not happening against Indy.
TEXANS (+6.5) at Panthers SPORTSBOOK LINES
Houston's Mario Williams, the first pick in the '06 draft, has more touchdowns than Reggie Bush after one week. Somehow I don't see that lasting. Meanwhile, Carolina bottled up what was expected to be a pretty high-octane offense in St. Louis in Week 1. Could this be the Panthers' defense everyone expected last year? Maybe. This feels like a 20-16 Carolina win.
RAMS (-3) vs. 49ers SPORTSBOOKS LINES
Absolutely love this game. Everyone's favorite pick for this year's surprise team -- the 49ers -- laid an egg on Monday night (not that anyone was watching with the game ending in the middle of the night for those of us on the East Coast). St. Louis wasn't much better, delivering a lackluster effort against the Panthers that included two Steven Jackson fumbles and panic from his fantasy owners. Jackson rebounds this week, and the Rams get their first win.
PACKERS (+1.5) at Giants SPORTSBOOKS LINES
Do you really trust this guy to win an NFL game if Eli Manning can't go? I say no. I'd feel alot better about this Packers team if it had any semblance of a running game, but I still think Green Bay's defense is good enough to give it a 2-0 start.
JAGUARS (-10) vs. Falcons SPORTSBOOKS LINES
Does it scare me to pick Jacksonville to cover a double-digit spread after it scored just 10 points last week against the Titans? Absolutely. But can I bring myself to pick Atlanta under any circumstances? No. Check out this poll on ajc.com. It asks what Atlanta's most urgent deficiency is: offense, defense, specials teams or all of the above. "All of the above" has 57 percent of the votes. Ouch.
SAINTS (-3) at Buccaneers SPORTSBOOKS LINES
I'm picking way too many road teams this week. Oh well. New Orleans has had some time to reflect on its lackluster showing in the opener, and the Buccanneers just aren't a very good football team. Anyone else surprised Tampa Bay hasn't made a move to sign Byron Leftwich? I thought that's what they do.
VIKINGS (+3) at Lions SPORTS BETTING LINES
Run the ball and stop the run. Minnesota can do both, and that will keep them in a lot of games this season. Even though it was only one week, Adrian Peterson looks like he was a steal at No. 7 in last year's draft. Not only will he produce, but Peterson delivers excitement to what otherwise would be one of the league's most boring teams.
DOLPHINS (+3.5) vs. Cowboys SPORTS BETTING LINES
Lost in the Tony Romo lovefest is just how bad the Cowboys' defense was last week. I know they're banged up, but Dallas' 'D' allowed 438 yards to the Giants' offense, and backup running back Derrick Ward averaged 6.8 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Cam Cameron's decision to split carries between Ronnie Brown and Jesse Chatman sounds about as can't-miss as Larry David's plan to show up to Marty Funkhouser's party a night late. Still, gotta go with Miami to cover at home.
SEAHAWKS (-2.5) at Cardinals SPORTS BETTING LINES
I'm probably missing something, but this game seems too easy. Arizona blew Monday night's game against the 49ers in typical Cardinals fashion, and the Seahawks beat Tampa Bay by two touchdowns. Love Seattle in this one.
BRONCOS (-9.5) vs. Raiders SPORTS BETTING LINES
Special teams was a major story line in Week 1. Take a look at the Broncos. They had to rush on to the field to get a Jason Elam field goal as time expired against the Bills. Denver drove into Buffalo territory on eight of 10 drives but came away with just a pair of field goals and a touchdown. Look for more scoring from the Broncos this week against an Oakland defense that gave up 36 points to Detroit in Week 1.
BEARS (-12) vs. Chiefs SPORTS BETTING LINES
Everyone talks about Rex Grossman when dissecting the Bears' offense, but Chicago's quarterback got no help in last week's loss to the Chargers. Meanwhile, Kansas City confirmed what we all thought while watching Hard Knocks: The Chiefs are going to stink this year. It could be a rough first month for Larry Johnson fantasy owners. Kansas City's RB was limited to 43 yards on 10 carries in Week 1, and the Chiefs face the Bears, Vikings and Chargers the next three weeks, all formidable run defenses.
RAVENS (-10) vs. Jets SPORTS BETTING LINES
A big dose of Willis McGahee and a usual sound defensive effort will give the Ravens their first win. According to Football Outsiders, no team in the NFL rushed only three defenders on pass plays last year more than the Jets. And according to my special Jets correspondent Ben Stauber, New York did the same in Week 1. Whoever starts at quarterback for the Ravens should have all day to throw.
PATRIOTS (-3) vs. Chargers
Friends and I were discussing how Bill Belichick goes about paying his $500,000 fine for cheating. Does he just write one check to the NFL? Do you need some sort of clearance to make such a monstrous financial transaction? I guess I shouldn't complain about the security deposit I have to put down on my new apartment. Anyway, two of the league's best teams square off in what should be a good one Sunday night. The Patriots always respond well just when you think they're in trouble. And their offensive attack was the story in Week 1.
Note: Monday night game will be picked Monday. Lines used are from football betting.
In the wake of the news that the 49ers have signed receiver Michael Crabtree after an extended holdout, there has been not a hint of the dollars to be paid to Crabtree.
And since this means that his agent hasn't leaked the numbers, it means that his agent feels no specific motivation to do so.
Possibly because his agent isn't all that thrilled to have his name on the deal.
So the numbers will come from sources other than Crabtree's agent. And we've gotten our mitts into them.
Per a league source, Crabtree has signed a six-year, $32 million contract. (The total includes guaranteed money, base salaries, and the one-time incentive based on achieving minimum playing time.)
The deal also includes $17 million in guaranteed money.
As reported elsewhere, the deal can void to five years based on performance triggers, wiping out a final year base salary of $4 million. But they won't be easily reached.
The source tells us that, in his first four seasons (including 2009), Crabtree must either qualify for two Pro Bowls, or he must qualify for one Pro Bowl in one year and he must participate in 80 percent of the offensive snaps in a separate year in which the team makes the playoffs.
In other words, if in 2010 he qualifies for the Pro Bowl and the team makes the playoffs and he participates in 80 percent of the snaps, he'll still need to make it to the Pro Bowl or achieve the 80-percent/playoffs in another season.
Since the chances of Crabtree making the Pro Bowl or participating in 80 percent of the offensive snaps this year is roughly zero percent, he'll have three years to get it done.
And it won't be easy. Frankly, he'll be hard pressed to make it to one Pro Bowl in three years with the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith, the other Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, DeSean Jackson, Johnny Knox, Percy Harvin, Greg Jennings, Roddy White, T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the same conference for sportsbook betting.
So, by all appearances, it's a six-year deal. And at $17 million in guaranteed money, the per-year guarantee is a tepid $2.83 million per year.
There's another problem with the deal -- it has no mid-tier incentive package. Instead, the additional $8 million that Crabtree can earn (pushing the max value to six years, $40 million) requires the kind of unrealistic, mega-star performances that no rookie is likely to ever achieve.
So while the contract paid to Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji covers five years and pays $22.5 million, he has the ability (if he's a solid player) to make up the difference between his base deal and Crabtree's five-year, $28 million haul via the mid-tier incentive package in Raji's deal.
And unless Crabtree meets the performance thresholds necessary to void the sixth year, he'll be stuck under contract for another year at a base salary of only $4 million.
There's one other area of concern with the deal. Crabtree, per the source, received no option bonus. Instead, he has significant money tied to a fairly new device known as a "discretionary salary advance," which unlike an opition bonus is subject to forfeiture if Crabtree decides in a year or two that he wants to hold out for a better deal. (We're also told that the 49ers have included language that would make certain escalators subject to forfeiture, too.)
Meanwhile, the deal falls well short of the mark for which Crabtree and agent Eugene Parker were aiming -- the five-year, $38.25 million contract paid by the Raiders to receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, the seventh overall pick in the draft.
Even if Crabtree successfully voids the final year, he'll make more than $2 million per year less on average than Heyward-Bey.
Thus, as we explained earlier in the day, this is a deal that Crabtree could have done in July, which would have given him a much better chance of making a contribution to the 49ers during his rookie year.
So while the final outcome can be described as win-win, the broader view suggests that it's really a lose-lose situation.