Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Peyton Manning, the No. 1 free agent this season, would have preferred to finish his career with the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately for him and most of the fans in the Hoosier State, circumstances have prevented that from happening.
The buzz around Manning and what team will he play for in 2012 has been inescapable. Fans of Houston and San Francisco, two teams that already have skilled quarterbacks in Matt Schaub and Alex Smith, respectively, are screaming for Manning, but it is extremely doubtful he will sign with either of those squads.
Some sports books have lines on what team Manning will throw his first pass for in Week 1 of this upcoming season and the overwhelming favorite is Miami.
The Dolphins, at around even-money, seem to be a decent team for Manning to play for in 2012. He's already got a home in South Florida, and his former teammate, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, would love to play for Miami considering he went to college at the University of Miami. In addition, the odds of Manning and Wayne teaming up this upcoming season are probably better than the odds of Manning playing for the Dolphins.
Still, choosing a team in the AFC East might not be the wisest move since the likelihood of winning the division is extremely small with New England cornering the market. On the other hand, Miami is a team going in the right direction and who wouldn't want to live in South Beach where the weather and scenery couldn't be better?
Speaking of beautiful weather, Arizona is the oddsmakers' second choice, but much higher than the even-money Dolphins. The Cardinals are around the 4-1 mark despite the fact they play in the NFC.
Manning has left the door open to a trip to the other conference, but don't count on it. He's much more familiar with AFC teams, especially their defenses. Moreover, he wouldn't want to be the one to knock his brother out of Super Bowl contention.
Throwing touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald is enticing, but don't look for Manning to jump to Arizona.
Seattle is a team that would love to gain the quarterback's services, especially with Tarvaris Jackson as the No. 1 signal-caller. Nevertheless, I don't expect Manning to play for the Seahawks. Remember, this process is not just about what teams want Manning; it's also, and probably more so, about where he wants to play.
There are three more teams that would be ideal fits for Manning.
The first is Tennessee. The Titans, at double digits in the wagering play, are in Manning's former division, so there is already a built-in familiarity with the three other teams, particularly Indianapolis.
Wouldn't it be exciting for the league, as well as the fans, to see Manning go up against the Colts twice each season? The Titans have a ton of money to spend and they just missed the playoffs last season despite a 9-7 record. Furthermore, it would be sort of a homecoming for Manning because he played in college at Tennessee.
The other two possible clubs play in the same division.
Denver and Kansas City both finished 8-8 last season with the Broncos winning the AFC West due to the tiebreaker.
For Manning to go to Denver, "Tebow Mania" will have to take a backseat. Some might question that kind of move, especially with how successful Tim Tebow was as the starter. But don't think for a minute Broncos boss John Elway would retain Tebow as his No. 1 signal-caller if given a chance to bring in Manning.
The Broncos have an outstanding offensive line, a solid running game and a defense that is on the verge of becoming one of the better units in the league. The only problem is at wide receiver, where not a single player stands out despite the abundance of speed and skill with the likes of Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. Still, if Wayne follows Manning, Denver can kill two birds with one stone.
Kansas City had the lowest offensive scoring total in the AFC in 2011, but the Chiefs played the majority of the season without running back Jamaal Charles. The receiving corps is much more explosive than Denver's and the defense is just as good, if not better. Remember, Kansas City allowed just 14 points per game in its last six contests, and that includes giving up 37 to the New York Jets.
The Chiefs haven't won a playoff game since 1993 when Joe Montana led them to the AFC Championship Game against Buffalo. Could Manning be the organization's next savior?