What-if Peyton Manning played for the Cardinals, Redskins, Jets and Dolphins From WhatIfSports.com image

What-if Peyton Manning played for ...

Manning shines with the Arizona Cardinals

By Ryan Fowler - WhatIfSports.com
UPDATE: March 7, 2012

Peyton Manning is a free agent.

He says retirement is not in the plans.

Now that he's on the open market, the feeding frenzy begins. First the flirting, then the dating and finally a new football marriage between quarterback and franchise.

No matter where he lands, once he takes the field, Manning will need to adjust to a new city, new targets and he may experience some growing pains. But this isn't the first challenge he's faced. Take for instance the players he was working with in his last game that counted.

Manning's last offensive drive included passes to Jacob Tamme and Blair White with a dash of Joseph Addai on the ground. That 2010 Wild Card game against the Jets seems like eons ago.

His last drive is a microcosm of what the elder Manning brought to the line every single down. He possesses the innate ability to raise the game of those around him. From Tamme to White to Austin Collie to Pierre Garcon, Manning has made an art out of creating chicken soup from chicken droppings. Up until now, all 13 professional seasons, this maestro's magic hat featured a horseshoe emblazoned on the side.

I will sidestep the arsenal of Andrew Luck/horseshoe puns and get right to the crux of Manning's future.

Pregame.com (as of 3/7/2012) has set odds on where he will land:

The what-if scenarios are plentiful and where Whatifsports.com's NFL simulation engine (67.2% SU and 52.2% ATS in the regular season) takes center stage.

It's safe to assume that Arizona fans with John Skelton and a constantly hobbled Kevin Kolb behind center would be interested to see what Peyton Manning - at full strength - could have meant to the Cardinals 2011 season. The same simulation situation presents itself in Washington with the Rex Grossman/John Beck carousel, in Miami where Matt Moore tried his best and even in New York where Mark Sanchez is losing favor amongst the Jets fan base.

Using our NFL simulation engine, we added Manning - using his 2010 statistical resume - to each of those four rosters and simulated each teams' 2011 regular season schedule 251 times.

Peyton's New Places?
2011 TeamSim W / L2011 W / LAvg PPG (Actual)
Manning w/ Cardinals11-58-826.6 (19.5)
Manning w/ Redskins9-75-1123.6 (18.0)
Manning w/ Dolphins11-56-1025.7 (20.6)
Manning w/ Jets12-48-825.8 (23.6)

Arizona believed Kevin Kolb was the answer to their quarterback quandary. After the front office tossed 21-million guaranteed dollars his way, Kolb struggled to live up to the lofty expectations before injuries sidelined him for most of the second half of the season. In nine games, he threw for less than 2,000 yards with nine touchdowns, eight interceptions, and an 81.1 QB rating.

With Manning behind center, the Cardinals won three more games and the offense averaged seven more points per game (versus reality) in our simulation. The scary thought of Manning chucking the rock in Larry Fitzgerald's direction aside, Early Doucet, Andre Roberts and Todd Heap's fantasy football value would receive a nice boost, too.

Manning's 2011 Simulation Stats
2011 TeamPassing YardsTouchdownsInterceptions
Manning w/ Cardinals4605318
Manning w/ Redskins4596299
Manning w/ Dolphins4369319
Manning w/ Jets4645329

*Manning's simulation stats are the average of the 251 schedule simulations

Rex Grossman/John Beck versus Peyton Manning? I'll wait until you stop laughing and catch your breath.

Our simulation engine predicted four more wins and five and a half more points per game on the scoreboard for the Redskins. Manning could easily make Fred Davis his new Dallas Clark if he moved to Washington.

Miami has gone from craving the services of Kyle Orton last summer to settling for Chad Henne to leaning on Matt Moore the final 13 games of the season to being a part of the Manning "what-if" conversation heading into 2012. His chemistry with Brandon Marshall and rise in Reggie Bush's statistical output equated to five more wins within our sim run.

Twitter may explode (is that phrase becoming a cliche already?) if Manning signs with the New York Jets. With baby brother around the corner, the Big Apple would be the epicenter of NFL coverage in 2012 and take the attention off New Orleans, Green Bay, New England and the usual elite franchise suspects.

With Mark Sanchez relegated to official clipboard holder, Manning won four more games in our simulation. Here's another scenario where the veteran quarterback would team up with a proven tight end. Dustin Keller led the Jets in receiving with 65 receptions for 815 yards. Despite the off-the-field baggage he carries, Santonio Holmes paired with Manning poses a dangerous tandem that would challenge the Patriots for the AFC East.

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Ryan Fowler is the Content Manager for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at rfowler@whatifsports.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FOXSportsFowler

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