MANY OF US are grizzled fantasy veterans; hardened cynics who feel that if Steven Jackson isn't going to break 100 yards, he might as well break his ankle. We don't get too excited when Denver's Eddie Royal gets 146 yards in Week 1 or too down when Minnesota's Adrian Peterson has only 32 in Week 5.

As such, hearing the perspective of a fantasy rookie is almost like watching a child at Christmas and the unbridled joy as the day unfolds.

Mike Mondrosch, a 39-year-old resident of Fox Chase, took the fantasy plunge this season. One of the lessons he learned about fantasy football was patience and how it's often silly to grab the Titans backup tight end simply because he had seven catches and a touchdown one week. Another lesson will help him better plan for next summer's vacation.

"My draft 'war room' was the deck bar at The Wharf in Wildwood," explained Mondrosch, a Philadelphia police officer for 19 years. "My wife, Joan, is very understanding, knows my love of sports and even managed to act interested while eating crabs. I am so hooked, next year's vacation is being planned with the draft [in mind] so I can attend."

Advancing to the championship of his 10-team league has only enhanced his first-year experience. Carolina's DeAngelo Williams has been a monster for him, as has Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson.

"People had told me this, but I never understood until now, that fantasy football changes the way you watch football. It really does," he said. "I also found myself watching games that in the past I would have no interest in, [like the Week 13] Monday night game between Houston and Jacksonville. I was watching that because I needed Andre Johnson to get me seven points."

See ya, Sammy

Slingin' Sammy Baugh, who passed away Wednesday at age 94, was a fantasy monster in his day, even if he did throw too many interceptions. Gotta love what he did in 1943 when he led the NFL with 1,754 yards passing, 23 touchdowns, a 45.9 yard average in punting and 11 interceptions as a defender.

Three up

* Matt Cassel, Patriots quarterback: Playing against an Arizona team that has given up 24, 56, 27 and 48 points in its four trips to the East Coast this season.

* Michael Turner, Falcons running back: As if it couldn't get any better for Turner fans, the Vikings will be without Pat Williams (shoulder), one of the league's best defensive tackles against the run.

* Jay Cutler, Broncos quarterback: He will put up better numbers this week against a Buffalo team playing for nothing than he did last week (172 yards, one TD, one pick) against the surging Panthers.

Three down

* Kurt Warner, Cardinals quarterback: Maybe it's East Coast arrogance, but let's see how those soft, warm-weather Cardinals fare in New England's bitter cold.

* Braylon Edwards, Browns wide receivers: Has scored only three touchdowns after notching 16 last season. If your choices are contracting malaria or playing a Browns player, take the malaria every time.

* Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs tight end: He has to be in the lineup, but it's still disconcerting that Miami has yet to allow a touchdown to an opposing tight end. *

Ed Barkowitz, whose fantasy football rookie season was 1994, also is a fantasy football consultant for CBS3's Sunday morning Eagles pregame show. Send e-mail to fantasyfootball@phillynews.com.