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It's fantasy football time!


A healthy No. 80 equals fantasy football glory.

Registration for the **Home Team Challenge**, the Texans' free salary-cap version of fantasy football, is now open. Here are some thoughts from the Voice of the Texans and SportsRadio 610 morning show host Marc Vandermeer on the upcoming fantasy football season:

Don't be fooled by people trying to sway you to join a fantasy football team for the first time. This is an endeavor that will require you to stay in touch with the NFL in ways you never imagined. Nevermind Sunday; it's a certainty that you will be checking stats on that day on a minute-to-minute basis. But during the week, you'll be checking injury updates and paying attention to NFL news like a fund manager poring over stock data.

If you must participate, here are some thoughts on how the Texans will come into play and how to win your league if you happen to not feel like dishing out the big bucks (points, in the case of the Home Team Challenge) on Tom Brady and Randy Moss.

Andre Johnson is a tremendous asset and helped a lot of owners win last year despite missing seven games. At the start of the season, Johnson is available at a slight discount with owners skeptical of his health after offseason arthroscopic knee surgery. But just the other day he said that he'll be completely ready to go by opening day. Don't hesitate to add him to your lineup.

Injuries happen. But you must find the bargain substitution when they do. Kevin Walter and André Davis stepped up big when Johnson went down last year with career-best production from the position. Through three preseason games, Walter has set Texans' records with receptions (13) and receiving yards (166) and looks like a great value pick right now.

People ask me if Matt Schaub is a safe bet. Considering the he and Sage Rosenfels threw for a team-record 24 touchdowns last year, it appears that whoever plays quarterback for the Texans is going to get plenty of scoring opportunities. Schaub may not be a chalk pick over Brady or Peyton Manning, but he comes at a much lower asking price and he makes plays, making him worth your consideration.

Owen Daniels? He was sixth among all NFL tight ends in catches last season but didn't find the end zone as much as his first year with only three touchdowns. But that shouldn't prevent you from investing a pick on him considering he will see the ball an awful lot and is a virtual lock to get into the end zone more often.

It doesn't take a genius to look at the NFL stats and assemble your team based on past production. But to survive in fantasy football, you have to spend a little time each week picking up an under-the-radar player or two when other players get hurt or when they're matched up against a weak defense.

I picked up Najeh Davenport for a couple of games last year and he happened to score two unlikely TDs in one game and another in the next. If you were hurting for production from the running back position and picked up Ron Dayne prior to the Oakland game last year, you would have looked like the Bill Walsh of your league.

And if you took Marques Colston in the early goings of the 2006 season, they would call you Lombardi. Yes, there is some luck involved. I had Dallas Clarkin my lineup several times last season, and his productivity slowed after the first few games. Carson Palmer also looked like an attractive option every week, but let owners down with a bad year by the Bengals.

This is why you will find yourself studying league information like Rick Smith. You will be out on a dinner date wondering if your assemblage of players makes the best use of the 300 weekly points allotted to you by the Home Team Challenge. You will hold a vigil, praying that the no-name starting wide receiver you took a gamble on comes through with a primetime performance. You will cheer for players on teams that you used to hate.

Have fun. Just don't quit your day job.

Registration for the **Home Team Challenge** is now open. The first game of the NFL season is Sept. 4 when the Giants take on the Redskins, so be sure to set your lineups prior to that game.

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