peyton manning*It’s hard to imagine Peyton Manning clothed in something anything other than the blue and white of the Indianapolis Colts, isn’t it?

You never get quite comfortable seeing an athlete in different colors than the ones they become associated with. The jersey will fit, sure, but there’s always something … off when an iconic athlete moves from one city to another. Michael Jordan sure never looked right in those hideous Wizards colors (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye-0ghhY7uw); neither did Emmitt Smith in Arizona Cardinal red and white, Karl Malone in Laker purple and gold (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_EJrBT6CMY), or Joe Montana in that red and gold pastiche of the Kansas City Chiefs. Once baseball season starts, it sure won’t look the same the first time Albert Pujols comes up to bat in Angels colors instead of St. Louis Cardinals garb (although their colors are almost the same).

We should all get ready for that awkward feeling again, because come September Peyton Manning will not be an Indianapolis Colt. Just like that. One of the five greatest players in NFL history (still in the tail end of his prime, if he comes back strong), the man who delivered thousands of yards, hundreds of touchdowns and one Superbowl to Indianapolis, is now free to go to any other team in the league. It’s earth-shattering.

So, the big, $64-million dollar question is … where is he going to go? There seems to be a few clear favorites. Miami can offer warm weather, a competent defense on the other side of the field, and a few talented offensive skill players in Reggie Bush and Brandon Marshall. Arizona’s got a similar situation, with a spectacular wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald. Denver can team up Peyton with VP John Elway to form a potent  front office / field combination (and wiggle themselves out of Tebowmania). Call Miami the leader for now, but the other two won’t be far behind.

Wherever he ends up, though, only one thing’s for sure: Sundays will look just a little bit stranger now that Peyton’s out of a Colts jersey. Maybe we’ll all be used to it by Week Sixteen or so.