nfl logo*The only bad thing about football coming back is its blink-and-it’s-over season.

It seems that only a few days ago we were complaining about replacement referees and drafting Michael Vick way too high in our fantasy drafts. Now, we’re halfway into the season, and the playoffs will be here in a few weeks. So, how is the rest of the year in the NFL going to shake out?

• The division winners: New England in the East, Baltimore in the Central, Houston in the South, Denver in the West. Those are the easy ones. Pittsburgh is so banged up and bruised that they could melt right out of the playoff picture; let’s have the dark-horse and suddenly hot Bengals and the happy-to-be-there Colts fill out the picture.

Expect New England to wallop the Bengals on their home turf and squeak past the Ravens, and look for Denver to smash Indianapolis and upset the Texans at home. That’s going to set up another Manning – Brady showdown in Foxboro, a sure ratings bonanza for CBS. Talk about epic. The home field and a slightly-improved Patriots secondary will make all the difference.

• In the NFC, New York in the East, Green Bay in the North, Atlanta in the South and San Francisco in the West, with Seattle riding its home-field advantage and the stumbling Bears backing into the playoffs as wild cards. New York does their typical Giants thing and comes alive to beat the Bears in the Meadowlands – but fall to the Falcons in the dome. Look for the Packers to take care of the Seahawks in Green Bay and handle the 49ers in San Francisco, then do enough to steal the NFC away for Green Bay. In a shootout of a Superbowl, Aaron Rodgers will do enough against that Patriots secondary to bring another ring to Titletown.

Odds and ends for the rest of the league. The MVP – Peyton Manning, and it shouldn’t even be close. His Lazarus act is something to behold. Comeback player? Adrian Peterson. The man’s a miracle. He’s running better after a blown-out ACL than before. Defensive player of the year? It’s hard to go against the Texans’ mammoth J.J. Watt. Who’s going to get fired? Well, Andy Reid is gone in Philly, Jason Garrett is done in Dallas, and Norv Turner should finally get canned from San Diego. Another name? How about Jim Schwartz in Detroit. The Lions may think they’ve gone as far as they can with him.