Peyton Manning: All-Pro Quarterback Makes These 5 Teams Super Bowl Contenders
For weeks now, the question has been if the decrepit Indianapolis Colts would hold onto both Andrew Luck, who would be picked first overall in the 2012 NFL draft, and Manning, or release their franchise cornerstone.
Many analysts, including Adam Schefter, have repeatedly reported that Manning will be cut, so that the Colts can start afresh in terms of their team and salary cap.
Here are five teams that would become legitimate Super Bowl contenders for the 2012-13 season if they can somehow sign Manning.
New York Jets
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The New York Jets finished out this past season with a three-game losing streak and missed the playoffs at 8-8.
Their biggest weakness was undoubtedly at the quarterback position, as Mark Sanchez cost his team a playoff berth by playing terribly in those three losses.
Time is running out for the Jets, who have one of the oldest rosters in the NFL. The defense slipped a little, giving up 22.7 points per game in 2011.
New York provides a perfect scenario for Manning, who can sign a two- to three-year deal with the Colts and finish out his career with a viable shot at a championship.
However, this decision hinges heavily on the Jets' willingness to cut Mark Sanchez, which might be a difficult pill to swallow considering he will be entering only his fourth season in 2012.
San Francisco 49ers
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While the 49ers did finish this season 13-3, look for that record to worsen as their schedule becomes more difficult next year.
However, a healthy Peyton Manning would change all of that, giving the 49ers an elite starting quarterback to pair with Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore.
San Francisco would definitely be one of the top three favorites to take home the Lombardi Trophy with this kind of acquisition, but with Jim Harbaugh showing strong support for Alex Smith throughout this season, I would be shocked if they signed Manning.
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The Miami Dolphins started out the season 0-7, yet went 6-3 to finish the season without the presence of fired coach Tony Sparano.
Miami also has one of the most underrated defenses in the league, giving up only 19.6 points per game, good for sixth best in the NFL.
An upgrade at quarterback would definitely better Miami as a whole, finally pairing Marshall with an elite quarterback, while putting less strain on the Dolphins defense.
Manning is supposedly enticed by playing in South Beach, as he owns a condo in the area. The allure of a big-city environment in Miami would further entice Manning, who would be playing in one of the bigger markets in the league.
The Dolphins would definitely be a playoff team with Manning, but would still be behind the Patriots in the AFC East pecking order.
Kansas City Chiefs
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The Kansas City Chiefs finished the season 7-9, barely missing the playoffs despite losing Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles to injuries early in the season.
Imagine what they could do with a healthy Berry and Charles and Peyton Manning at the helm of the offense.
Kansas City has a solid defense, which is young and still improving. In addition, they will have a solid first-round pick this year, which could be used to shore up the offensive line or linebacking corps.
The Chiefs really are the under-the-radar pick to get Manning, and would see the greatest improvement among all teams on this list. In addition, with an easier schedule next year, the Chiefs could win 11 to 12 games with Manning on the team.
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The Tennessee Titans were very close to making the playoffs this season, finishing the year with a surprising 9-7 record in Mike Munchak's first season.
Keep in mind, this team won nine games even with Chris Johnson having statistically his worst season ever in the NFL.
Don't get me wrong, Matt Hasselbeck is a solid NFL quarterback who could put up 3,500-plus yards and 20 touchdowns when healthy. However, the Titans offense is far better with a healthy Peyton Manning.
With Manning on the team, opposing franchises will be forced to respect the passing and running game, giving Chris Johnson undoubtedly more rushing yards.
Couple a more effective CJ with the return of Kenny Britt, and the Titans would likely be the toast of the AFC South, even in comparison with a healthy Houston Texans team.