It’s about time...

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By Mike Cote

All is again right with the world.
Sure, there’s some craziness in Europe with the economy or whatnot. Libya is collapsing before our eyes. The U.S. is running out of oil, water, food, jobs and self-respect.
It’s fall. There’s green chile and there’s football. That’s all you need.
There was some speculation about this being a rough year for the chile crop, but chile is plentiful at the supermarket. And there was some speculation about the NFL season being nixed over a few dollars and cents the owners and players were squaking about.
But all is forgiven. Tonight, the past two Super Bowl winners, the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers meet in the 2011 season opener.
I’ve got my green chile nachos ready. I’ve also got my bold NFL predictions right here:

AFC East
The Patriots might finally be showing some cracks in their armor. However, the rest of the teams in this division have chasms either at the quarterback spot (Miami, Buffalo) or in their coach’s head (New York). Patriots win, the Jets get a wild-card spot.

AFC North
You may say I’m a dreamer, and I could well be the only one, but this will be the year Baltimore finally gets over the hump that is the Pittsburgh Steelers. James Harrison’s distractions are finally their undoing. The Bengals finish fifth.

AFC South
Big Brother Manning’s incredible string of starts might be the biggest casualty of the lockout this year. He’s not expected to play for the Colts Sunday. It’s also the end of the streak of division titles as Houston stuns everyone and picks up the division. The Colts still make the playoffs via wildcard.

AFC West
Somebody’s got to win. I’ll say, oh, the Chargers.

NFC East
Can Philadelphia become the train wreck the Miami Heat were in basketball this year? It’s hardly out of the realm of possibility, but the Eagles have more than enough talent to take the division, edging out the Giants.

NFC North
Twelve months ago, I wouldn’t have though the Packers were the team to beat in the NFC, but they are. This decisive win in this division might only be the first step to a repeat performance in 2011.

NFC South
The Saints were marching until a slew of late-season injuries hurt them in their quest for a Super Bowl repeat. Tonight’s game could be telling as to how they’ll fare. New Orleans will win this division, while both NFC wild-card teams, Tampa Bay and Atlanta, will also emerge from this division.

NFC West
Ditto the AFC West. St. Louis’ recent draft picks and acquisitions have shown some potential, so the Rams get the nod. Seattle’s 7-9 mark won’t be good enough this year to host a playoff game.

Mike’s Very Early Super Bowl Pick: New Orleans 31, Baltimore 20.