Along with the Saints’ bounty story (I refuse to call it Bounty Gate), the story that will carry us until the free agency season is Where Will Peyton Go? You’ll read a lot about the places that make the most sense. Here’s my list of the five places that would serve up the best story lines.
#5: Miami-This is the team that might offer Manning the most money because they are most in need of superstar power. The Dolphins’ offense has Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush and would probably get Reggie Wayne as a side dish. It would cause Joe Philbin to play a different offense than he thought he’d be installing, but I doubt he’d have a problem with that. The Dolphins also play in the same division as Tom Brady, which means we would get two battles each year.
4: Kansas City-One of the NFL’s greatest fan bases would welcome Manning with open arms. The offense is pretty potent already provided they re-sign Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles and Tommy Moeaki return from injuries. It’s a very winnable division and with Romeo Crennel showing his impact on a young, improving defense, Manning and the Chiefs would be the preseason AFC West favorites.
3: Houston-I get the feeling Manning would like to avoid playing in the AFC South, unless he’s really bitter at how owner Jim Irsay has handed this divorce. Imagine the Texans with Manning: instant Super Bowl favorites. You’d have to feel bad for Matt Schaub, but you plug Manning and Wayne into an offense with Andre Johnson and Arian Foster: oh. my. goodness.
2: N.Y. Jets: Manning and Rex Ryan seem like an unlikely pair, but how entertaining could this be? Sanchez moves to the bench and the Jets bring in Tom Brady’s rival to lead them against their most bitter rivals. This is a huge longshot, obviously, but imagine the ratings the Jets would garner for their games against the Pats.
1. San Francisco: Look, Alex Smith resurrected his career under Jim Harbaugh, and I’ve heard nothing that would lead me to think the 49ers would make a move like this, but San Francisco gives Peyton Manning the best chance to reach the Super Bowl next season and they’d potentially pass the Pack as NFC Super Bowl favorites. This is the last place I want to see him land, but it might be the one that makes the most sense–unless he’d prefer to stay in the AFC and not have to face his brother, unless they both reach the Super Bowl.
Gut feeling: I think he ends up in Kansas City, a la Joe Montana.