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Fantasy: Making the Call in Week 1

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An Andre Johnson autographed football is up for grabs in week one of the free HoustonTexans.com Home Team Challenge.

It's not difficult to select a starting lineup of superstars in the HoustonTexans.com Home Team Challenge. For 300 points, you can select Pro Bowlers at almost every starting spot. Earlier today, I set my lineup and was practically salivating at my team's talent. But then I looked at some of the matchups and realized that I have a lot of thinking and re-thinking to do.

This league is about deciding *which *superstars to grab, and when. In general, you can almost always count on players like Peyton Manning and LaDanian Tomlinson to produce, no matter what defense they're up against. But high price tags combined with tough matchups can make such players hurt your team more than they help.

The extra points these superstars cost might be more wisely spent on other players with better matchups and less hype. Here are a couple of players I'd avoid in Week 1, and two players on the cheap who could help bring that Andre Johnson autographed football right to your doorstep.

NO THANKS

1. LaDanian Tomlinson, SD, 74 points (vs CHI): This is sure to be a controversial opinion, so I'll tread carefully. But here's my rationale: it's doubtful a player's stock will ever be as high as LT's after that 31-touchdown 2006 season. And even though he made NFL defenses look like Pop Warner kids last year, his stats were so superior to his career splits (LT's career high was 18 rushing TDs before 28 in '06) that I'd expect his numbers to "regress" toward his career averages. Keep in mind that the next-most expensive running back, Steven Jackson, can be had at an 11-point discount, and a back like Frank Gore is going for a whopping 33 points less. And LT faces a Chicago defense that allowed less than 100 yards/game and seven total TDs on the ground last season. Production is practically guaranteed with LT on your team, but if you can find a way to use those extra points to build a more well-rounded roster that you're confident in, then I'd certainly do so.

**Alternatives: Steven Jackson, STL, 63 (vs CAR); Shaun Alexander, SEA, 53 (vs TB).

  1. Vince Young, QB, TEN, 57 (@JAC): **

An impressive talent, yes, but there are just too many questions surrounding Young and the Titans to warrant him landing on your roster in Week 1. He'll get some points all by himself, but his top receiver and running back from 2006 are both gone. Who's Young going to throw to? And who in the heck will run the ball besides him? Going against a Jacksonville defense that allowed the second-fewest passing TDs (12) and fourth-fewest rushing yards (91.2/game) last season, this is not the week to find out.

Alternatives: Donovan McNabb, PHI, 59 (@GB); Tony Romo, DAL, 52 (vs NYG).

SIGN ME UP

1. Willie Parker, PIT, 39 (@CLE): "Fast Willie" is coming off a banner 1,494-rushing yard year with 13 TDs. Heading into his third season as starter with the Steelers, he's proven in '05 and '06 that he can take the pounding of a full regular season. Parker is a good bet in Week 1. The Browns had an awful run defense in last season (fourth-worst in the NFL at 142.2 yards/game).

2. Travis Henry, DEN, 37 (@BUF):If he's healthy as expected by the time the regular season starts, look out. Henry will run with added motivation as the Broncos open up against his former team, the Buffalo Bills, who allowed the fifth-most rushing yards per game last season (140.9). Oh, and Henry is the unquestioned feature back in that always run-happy Denver offense, and happens to be coming off a dazzling 1,200-yard season in Tennessee.

Registration is quick, easy and free. Make sure to set your lineup by Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m.

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