During the course of their careers Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have been inexorably linked. They have been the two best quarterbacks in football and spearheaded what became the greatest rivalry the sport had to offer. But that was when Manning was leading the Indianapolis Colts. Now, he's a free agent.
The NFL world was set ablaze this week when Manning's release from Indy finally became official. Gambling websites posted odds predicting Manning's next team, talk shows in every NFL outpost discussed his future and virtually every team made a reasonable pitch as to why signing him would make sense.
While we still don't know for sure where Manning will play in 2012, for those of us in New England the focus is a little different. With Brady still very much the centerpiece of the Patriots organization, Manning is not an option. But his decision could very well impact the team in the coming years, and that's where our weekly debate will focus.
This week's Samsonite Make Your Case asks: As a Patriots fan, where would you least like to see Manning wind up in 2012?
PFW's Paul Perillo says ... Houston
I understand how dangerous it could be having Manning playing in the AFC East, but even with him I don't believe the Dolphins would be serious contenders. Houston, on the other hand, is already a Super Bowl-caliber team. With a healthy Manning they would vault to Super Bowl favorites.
The Texans have a lot of pieces in place to be dangerous. They have Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, two of the best in the league at their respective positions, and they also have an excellent offensive line. In addition, Houston has a top-five defense with the ability to rush the passer. Adding Manning to the offense would almost certainly mean more points, bigger leads and more opportunities for that defense to get after opposing quarterbacks.
Matt Schaub is a solid quarterback and Houston will be fine with or without Manning. But Schaub is injury prone having missed at least five games in three of his five seasons leading the Texans offense. Assuming Manning is healthy, which admittedly is a big assumption, he would offer more stability at the game's most important position.
Division titles are nice but the goal is to get to the Super Bowl. Having Manning in the division may make winning the AFC East more difficult but having him in Houston would make getting to the Super Bowl much harder. If given the choice, I'd rather him go to the weaker team - and pretty much all the options would be weaker than Houston.
PFW's Andy Hart says ... Miami
The Patriots have dominated the AFC East for the most part for the last decade. But putting Manning in place in Miami would make life a lot more difficult on New England within the division.
The Dolphins put things together later in the year last season and are a tough team with some decent personnel, especially on offense. They have a very good running back and good receivers (and the group would get stronger if Manning brings Reggie Wayne with him!). With the Patriots issues on defense, Miami with Manning would be scary twice a year.
It also would make Miami a playoff contender. That means you could add Manning's Dolphins to the list of teams the Patriots might have to go through to get to a Super Bowl. A team like Houston is already on the list with Matt Schaub. With Manning in Miami you would add the Dolphins to the list of Texans, Ravens, Steelers and maybe Chargers as teams that could legitimately be a major postseason speed bump.
Truly elite quarterbacks are the difference between winning and losing in the NFL. If he can get back to full health, Manning is elite among the elite. The Patriots have held a major quarterback advantage in the AFC East for the last decade. That's why they've dominated the division. I don't want to see them lose that advantage. Keep Manning as far away as possible. Out of the division. Out of the conference would really be nice.
Your turn! Cast your vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll.