No one scripts and spawns hope like the National Football League.

Two of the best examples of that hope will kick off the 2023 NFL Playoffs when the CLEVELAND BROWNS (11-6) meet the HOUSTON TEXANS (10-7) at NRG Stadium on Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, Telemundo).

The Texans completed a worst-to-first turnaround by winning the AFC South the year after finishing in last place. In 19 of the past 21 seasons (2003-23), at least one NFL team has won its division the year after finishing last or tied for last. Houston became the first team with a rookie head coach (DEMECO RYANS) and rookie starting quarterback (C.J. STROUD) to win its division in the Super Bowl era (1966-present).

What’s more, in 25 of the past 28 seasons (1996-2023), at least one team has made the playoffs the year after finishing last or tied for last. This year, both Cleveland and Houston qualified for the postseason after finishing last in their respective divisions in 2022.

Meanwhile, in each of the past four years, a team that started 2-5 has rebounded to earn a playoff berth. This season, the GREEN BAY PACKERS (9-8) accomplished the feat, and in the process became the 11th team since 1990 to author such an impressive in-season turnaround. The Packers visit the DALLAS COWBOYS (12-5) on Sunday (4:30 p.m. ET, FOX, FOX Deportes). Including the 2023 Cowboys, there has not been a repeat NFC East division winner since 2004, the longest active streak among divisions in the NFL and the longest such streak in league history.

The ultimate reward for that abundance of hope starts to pay dividends this week.

With two games on Saturday, three on Sunday and a primetime finale on Monday, Super Wild Card Weekend begins the 33-day, 12-game march to the Super Bowl in Las Vegas.

Ready or not, the NFL Playoffs are here.

And in the immortal words of Cowboys quarterback DAK PRESCOTThere we go.

The Starting 11 entering Super Wild Card Weekend

1.   DOLPHINS-CHIEFS AVAILABLE EXCLUSIVELY ON PEACOCK: When MIAMI (11-6) visits KANSAS CITY (11-6) on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, Peacock), Peacock will present the first-ever exclusively live-streamed NFL postseason game. Peacock’s AFC Wild Card exclusive will again feature a commercial-free fourth quarter, similar to the Dec. 23 Bills-Chargers game.

  • And that could be a good thing because the forecast for GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday night calls for bitter cold. When that fourth quarter begins, current models expect the temperature to hit minus-6 degrees with double-digit wind speeds and a 43-percent chance of light snow. The Dolphins and Chiefs, who played the longest game in NFL history (82 minutes and 40 seconds in the 1971 AFC Playoffs), also could be playing in one of the coldest. The coldest-recorded kickoff temperatures all-time:
-13-48Dec. 31, 1967Lambeau FieldGB 21, DAL 17; NFL Championship
-9-59Jan. 10, 1982Riverfront StadiumCIN 27, SD 7; AFC Championship
-6-25Jan. 10, 2016TCF Bank StadiumSEA 10, MIN 9; NFC Wild Card
-1-23Jan. 10, 2008Lambeau FieldNYG 23, GB 20 (OT); NFC Championship
  • Miami wide receiver TYREEK HILL, selected by the Chiefs in the fifth round (165th overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft, plays his first game in Kansas City since the Chiefs traded him to Miami before the 2022 season. Hill, who led the league this year with 1,799 receiving yards and tied for the NFL lead with 13 touchdown receptions, is the first player in NFL history to record at least 1,700 receiving yards in multiple seasons. He finished second in the league last year with 1,710.
    • Dolphins quarterback TUA TAGOVAILOA makes his postseason debut. A first-time Pro Bowl selection this season, Tagovailoa (4,624) became the first Dolphins player to lead the NFL in passing yards since Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO in 1992.
    • Kansas City’s ANDY REID is in his 25th season as an NFL head coach, including 1999-2012 at the reins of the Eagles. His 2023 defense under defensive coordinator STEVE SPAGNUOLO is one of the best Reid has ever deployed. The Chiefs this season produced 57 sacks and allowed only four rushing touchdowns and 176.5 net passing yards per game – all the best marks among any team with Reid as a head coach. Kansas City also allowed 289.8 total yards per game, the second-fewest mark by a Reid-coached team, surpassed only by the 2008 Eagles (274.3).
    • Reid has won 10-or-more games in nine consecutive seasons, the second-longest streak in NFL history. Only BILL BELICHICK (17 seasons of 10-plus wins from 2003-19) owns a longer stretch.
    • Saturday’s contest features the NFL’s most prolific offense (Miami led the league with 401.3 yards per game) against the league’s second-stingiest defense (Kansas City finished second, allowing just 289.8 yards per game). The Dolphins also produced 29.2 points per game, second in the league, while the Chiefs allowed the second-fewest points per game (17.3).

2.   NUMBER OF THE WEEK – 6,104: The age difference in days between Houston rookie C.J. STROUD (22 years, 102 days old on Saturday) and Cleveland’s JOE FLACCO (38 years, 362 days old). Only four other games in NFL postseason history have seen a larger gap in the age of starting quarterbacks, and all involved TOM BRADY (7,674 days between Brady and JALEN HURTS on Jan. 16, 2022; 6,619 days between Brady and PATRICK MAHOMES on Jan. 20, 2019; 6,619 days between Brady and Mahomes in Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, 2021; and 6,281 days between Brady and JARED GOFF in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, 2019).

  • When CLEVELAND (11-6) meets HOUSTON (10-7) on Saturday at NRG Stadium (4:30 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, Telemundo), Flacco is expected to make his first postseason start in nine years, when he started two games for the Ravens in the 2014 NFL Playoffs. Flacco’s 3,290 days between playoff starts will be the second-longest gap ever for a quarterback, behind DOUG FLUTIE, who went 4,382 days between postseason starts on Jan. 3, 1987, and Jan. 2, 1999.
    • Stroud finished with 4,108 passing yards this season, becoming the fifth rookie all-time with 4,000 passing yards, joining ANDREW LUCK (4,374 in 2012), JUSTIN HERBERT (4,336 in 2020), CAM NEWTON (4,051 in 2011) and JAMEIS WINSTON (4,042 in 2015). Stroud recorded a 100.8 passer rating and became the fourth qualifying rookie quarterback in NFL history with a passer rating of 100-or-higher, joining DAK PRESCOTT (104.9 in 2016), ROBERT GRIFFIN III (102.4 in 2012) and RUSSELL WILSON (100.0 in 2012). And, Stroud had nine games with 250 passing yards, surpassing ANDREW LUCK (eight in 2012) for the second most by a rookie quarterback in NFL history. Only JUSTIN HERBERT (12 in 2020) had more.
    • Cleveland head coach KEVIN STEFANSKI, a Coach of the Year candidate after winning games with four starting quarterbacks this season, is bidding to become the first Browns head coach to win a second career postseason game since MARTY SCHOTTENHEIMER in 1986-87.

3.   THE CLOSE-GAME ERA: The 2023 regular season produced 113 games decided by six-or-fewer points, 135 decided by seven-or-fewer and 147 decided by eight-or-fewer, all the second-most or tied for the second-most single-season marks in league history. And in all three categories, only 2022 had more. That means that over the past two seasons (543 games), 43.3 percent of all NFL contests were separated by no more than six points, 50.8 percent by no more than seven and 55.8 percent by no more than one score (eight points).

4.   SPOTLIGHT – INDIVIDUAL MATCHUP: When HOUSTON (10-7) has the ball against CLEVELAND (11-6) at NRG Stadium on Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, Telemundo), circle the matchup on the left side of the line of scrimmage. That’s where Texans tackle LAREMY TUNSIL and Browns defensive end MYLES GARRETT will engage in a game within the game that features nine combined Pro Bowl selections, five for Garrett and four for Tunsil. Garrett has 14-or-more sacks in each of the last three seasons.

5.   SPOTLIGHT – TEAM MATCHUP: The Eagles’ offensive line includes three players selected as Pro Bowlers this season, guard LANDON DICKERSON, tackle LANE JOHNSON and center JASON KELCE. When PHILADELPHIA (11-6) faces off against TAMPA BAY (9-8) in the final Wild Card game on Monday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC/ESPN+, ESPN2/ESPN+ ManningCast, ESPN Deportes), that Eagles line will see a Buccaneers front seven that includes former Pro Bowl selections SHAQUIL BARRETTLAVONTE DAVIDVITA VEA and DEVIN WHITE.

6.   STREAK SPEAK: Jan. 5, 1992 – that was the date the Lions last won a postseason game, a 38-6 victory over the Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Playoffs at the Pontiac Silverdome. With a victory over the LOS ANGELES RAMS (10-7) at Ford Field on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, Universo), DETROIT (12-5) would end the third-longest streak without a playoff victory in league history. The Cardinals went 51 years and five days between postseason wins, from Dec. 28, 1947, to Jan. 2, 1999, and the Lions went 34 years and seven days between playoff victories, from Dec. 29, 1957, to Jan. 5, 1992.​

7.   DID YOU KNOW?: The showdown between the LOS ANGELES RAMS (10-7) and DETROIT LIONS (12-5) at Ford Field on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, Universo) might set a postseason record for most pregame storylines. Among those angles, Lions quarterback JARED GOFF, a former first-overall selection who led the Rams to a Super Bowl berth in 2018, faces the team that traded him for MATTHEW STAFFORD. Stafford, himself a former No. 1 overall pick who led the Rams to a Super Bowl title in 2021, returns to Detroit to meet his former team. Another individual meeting his former team, Detroit general manager BRAD HOLMES, spent 18 years (2003-2020) in the Rams’ front office before joining the Lions in 2021. And speaking of front offices, Holmes and counterpart LES SNEAD of the Rams have engineered some of the most impressive personnel performances in recent memory. Nowhere is that work more evident, in collaboration with their respective coaching staffs, than the wide receiver position.

  • Detroit’s AMON-RA ST. BROWN has memorized each of the 16 wide receivers selected ahead of him in the 2021 NFL Draft, before Holmes drafted him in the fourth round (112th overall). St. Brown has 315 career receptions and surpassed CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY (303) for the third-most catches by a player in his first three career seasons in NFL history. Only JUSTIN JEFFERSON (324) and MICHAEL THOMAS (321) have more.
    • Nineteen wide receivers were taken before Snead selected PUKA NACUA in the fifth round (177th overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft. Nacua had 105 receptions and surpassed JAYLEN WADDLE (104 in 2021) for the most by a rookie in NFL history. Plus, Nacua had 1,486 receiving yards and surpassed BILL GROMAN (1,473 in 1960) for the most by a rookie all-time.
    • The Lions – with rookie running back JAHMYR GIBBS (11 scrimmage touchdowns), rookie tight end SAM LAPORTA (10), veteran running back DAVID MONTGOMERY (13) and St. Brown (10) – were the second team in NFL history with four players with 10 scrimmage touchdowns in a season, joining the 2013 DENVER BRONCOS. Gibbs and LaPorta were the first pair of rookie teammates each with at least 10 scrimmage touchdowns in NFL history.
    • LaPorta had 86 receptions and surpassed KEITH JACKSON (81 in 1988) for the most by a rookie tight end in NFL history. With 10 touchdown receptions this season, LaPorta became the third rookie tight end in NFL annals to reach the mark, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (12 in 1961) and ROB GRONKOWSKI (10 in 2010). And among rookies at all positions, LaPorta was the second rookie in NFL history with at least 85 receptions and 10 touchdown catches, joining ODELL BECKHAM JR. (2014).

8.   UNDER-THE-RADAR STORYLINE: The cradle of 2023 NFL playoff coaches is located in Williamsburg, Va. The 1993-94 football rosters at the College of William & Mary listed both wide receiver MIKE TOMLIN and defensive back SEAN MCDERMOTT, the respective head coaches for the PITTSBURGH STEELERS (10-7) and BUFFALO BILLS (11-6), who clash at Highmark Stadium on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS, Paramount+). Several other coaches in the 2023 NFL Playoffs also made stops at William & Mary, including Bills interim offensive coordinator JOE BRADY, Cowboys defensive coordinator DAN QUINN and Steelers special teams coordinator DANNY SMITH.

9.   ​TREND TIME: The Cowboys, the NFL’s only team to go undefeated (8-0) at home this season, have won 16 straight games at AT&T Stadium, the second-longest home winning streak in franchise history (Dallas won 18 consecutive home games from 1980-81). In home games this season, DALLAS (12-5) led the NFL in points scored (299), points margin (plus-172), total offense per game (425.8) and turnover margin (plus 1.25 per game). The Cowboys’ Wild Card opponent, GREEN BAY (9-8) on Sunday (4:30 p.m. ET, FOX, FOX Deportes), won three of its final four road games, a big reason the Packers are in the playoffs.

  • Thirteen years ago, MIKE MCCARTHY led the Packers to a Super Bowl XLV triumph in Dallas. McCarthy, who now holds the reins of the Cowboys, is 29-9 (.763) at AT&T Stadium, including the postseason. He was 4-0 as Green Bay’s head coach.
    • Six decades ago, Green Bay used victories over Dallas to earn trips to each of the first two Super Bowls. One year before the Ice Bowl (the 1967 NFL Championship Game), Pro Football Hall of Fame coaches VINCE LOMBARDI and TOM LANDRY squared off in the first of eight all-time postseason meetings between the Packers and Cowboys (the teams are tied, 4-4). That 1966 NFL Championship Game at the Cotton Bowl, where Green Bay sealed a 34-27 victory with a last-minute interception in the end zone, marked the first of the Packers’ seven all-time postseason trips to Dallas. The Packers have won their last two playoff games in Dallas, a 34-31 thriller in the 2016 NFC Divisional Playoffs and a 31-25 triumph in Super Bowl XLV. Before that, however, the Cowboys ended Green Bay’s hopes in three straight seasons, 1993-95, at Texas Stadium.
    • Led by JORDAN LOVE, the first Packers quarterback since at least 1950 to lead the team to the playoffs in his first full season as a starter, Green Bay became the youngest team to earn a postseason berth since Pro Football Hall of Famer WALTER PAYTON and the 1977 CHICAGO BEARS.
    • The Cowboys’ DAK PRESCOTT (36 touchdown passes) became the first Dallas player in 50 years to lead the NFL in touchdown passes, since Pro Football Hall of Famer ROGER STAUBACH in 1973. Prescott also became the first quarterback in NFL history with four games in a season with a completion percentage of 80-or-higher (minimum 30 attempts in each game).
    • Dallas wide receiver CEEDEE LAMB had 12 touchdown catches and a franchise-record 135 receptions, becoming the fourth player all-time with at least 125 receptions and 10 touchdown receptions in a season, joining ANTONIO BROWN (2014 and 2015), Pro Football Hall of Famer MARVIN HARRISON (2002) and COOPER KUPP (2021). Lamb had seven games with at least 11 receptions, surpassing MICHAEL THOMAS (six games in 2019) for the most games with 11-or-more receptions in a season in NFL history.

10. NEXT GEN STAT OF THE WEEK: In last week’s regular-season finale, Miami running back DE’VON ACHANE was traveling 14.83 MPH when he crossed the line of scrimmage on his 25-yard touchdown run, and reached a top speed on the carry of 17.67 MPH. This season, Achane averages the fastest speed at the line of scrimmage (12.22 MPH) among running backs with at least 50 carries. Teammate RAHEEM MOSTERT ranks second in that category among running backs (11.28 MPH).

11. AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST: For the first time in 23 years, the NFL playoff field features three franchises that have never played in a Super Bowl: CLEVELANDDETROIT and HOUSTON. The last time an NFL postseason included as many franchises without a Super Bowl berth was 2000 (BALTIMORENEW ORLEANS and TAMPA BAY). After the Ravens captured a Super Bowl XXXV championship in 2000, the Buccaneers followed just two years later by winning Super Bowl XXXVII. And in 2009, the Saints also earned their Lombardi Trophy with a win in Super Bowl XLIV. Could similar futures await Cleveland, Detroit and Houston?

  • The last time both the Browns and Lions won at least 10 games in the same season was 1953, when Detroit defeated Cleveland in the NFL Championship Game, 17-16.