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More linking of Peyton to Dolphins; plus LeBron, Super Bowl ratings, UM

A half-dozen notes on a Monday afternoon:

 ### ESPN’s Adam Schefter, one of the most reputable information men, said Monday on ESPN.com, “The team that is the favorite in my mind to land Peyton Manning is Miami. The Dolphins can offer warm weather and a favorable contract.”

Schefter disputes speculation that the 49ers might bid for him and give up on impending free agent Alex Smith. Miami, Washington, Arizona and the Jets are the four teams believed to have strong interest, with others (including Seattle) among potential suitors.

### As ESPN’s Chris Mortensen noted, if Manning’s recovery follows the exact timeline Chris Weinke did after his neck surgery – and obviously, that’s speculative and unknown – than Manning’s shoulder should be a lot better by March. And by June, it should be at full strength – if his recovery mirrors Weinke’s. But those are big IFS.

Manning, who will be 36 next month, had the surgery at a much older age than Weinke, who rebounded from the operation to win a Heisman Trophy at Florida State a year later.

### Sunday’s Super Bowl drew the highest rating for the game in 26 years --- a 47.0. But Miami-Fort Lauderdale’s 40.6 rating on NBC 6 was the lowest of the 56 metered markets. That means 40.6 percent of all Dade-Broward homes were tuned to the game – a huge number but not as good as other big markets.

### Magic Johnson is among those who have established LeBron James as the front-runner for MVP; coach Erik Spoelstra endorsed him for the award on Monday. “He’s the best player in basketball,” Spoelstra said after practice. “There really isn’t anyone that’s his peer.”

James said this is not the best basketball he has played “in my life.” He pointed instead to his senior year of high school. “I’m more free, more happy and excited than I was last year,” he said. “I always try to be the MVP every time I come on the court.” He said when fans leave the arena, “hopefully fans can say, ‘LeBron is the best player on the court tonight.’” James is averaging 29.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists, while shooting 55.2 percent.

### Spoelstra met with Shane Battier, who is shooting just 32 percent from the field. “My message to him is just to be patient – his shooting will come around. I wanted to clear his head and let him know he’s still very important.” Battier said Monday that his shot is technically sound and he hasn’t lost confidence.     

### UM, fresh off Sunday’s upset win at Duke, has clearly established itself as one of the top six teams in the ACC, and should get an NCAA Tournament bid if it goes 5-3 on the back half of its schedule to finish 10-6. But 9-7 comes with no guarantees, not without a strong showing in the ACC Tournament. Remember – the ACC got only four NCAA Tourney bids last year.

“To come in here and play with the kind of poise we did, play the kind of defense we did, especially in the first half and overtime, was something we can be very, very proud of,” coach Jim Larranaga said.

About 50 UM students welcomed the Canes home from Duke when they arrived on campus Sunday night. Meanwhile, ESPN2 picked up the Canes' home game against Virginia Tech at 9 p.m. Thursday.