This season's NFL playoffs kick off right here on ABC15 with a matchup that carries more intrigue than your average Wild Card game.
The 11-5 Houston Texans will host the 10-6 Indianapolis Colts in the first Wild Card game of the weekend beginning at 2:30 p.m. Arizona time Saturday. Whether you're a fan of either team, a loyal Arizona Cardinals supporter, or are simply looking forward to watching some football with friends this weekend, here are three terrific reasons to tune in.
1. Former Cardinals -- and not just the Honey Badger
Everyone Cardinals fan knows the story behind Tyrann Mathieu's departure from Arizona in the offseason. But like so many athletes who used to play in the Valley, the Honey Badger has experienced a career resurgence with his new team.
Mathieu was not a Pro Bowl selection in his first year with the Texans, but he could have been. After spending his first five NFL seasons with the Cardinals, he matched a career high with 89 total tackles in 2018, including five tackles for loss and a career-high three sacks, along with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. He also proudly proclaimed in an Instagram video that he will never go back to Arizona after the way the team treated him.
But Mathieu isn't the only former Cardinal you'll see Saturday. Colts offensive lineman Evan Boehm was the Cardinals' fourth-round pick in 2016 and started eight games for the Cards in 2017 -- but he was waived by Arizona after the 2018 preseason. He was claimed by the Los Angeles Rams shortly thereafter, and the Colts signed Boehm off the Rams' practice squad in October. He has played in 11 games for the Colts, including four starts in place of injured center Ryan Kelly, and he has received positive reviews for his performances.
2. Two of the NFL's hottest teams
The reality is that few Wild Card teams end up making it all the way to the Super Bowl -- or even to a conference championship game. But the Colts and Texans are not your average Wild Card teams.
Early in the season, neither of these teams seemed likely to make the playoffs. The Texans lost their first three games, and the Colts lost five of their first six games. But Houston went on to win nine straight games -- a streak snapped at home by the Colts in Week 14 -- and Indianapolis has won nine of its last 10, making them two of the hottest teams in all of football entering the postseason.
Both teams are good at scoring, too. The Colts are third in the AFC and fifth in all of the NFL with 433 points this season, while the Texans aren't far behind with 402. Both teams have exciting quarterbacks (Andrew Luck and DeShaun Watson) who are capable of throwing for 400 yards and multiple touchdowns on any given day. And both teams have won in the other team's stadium this season. Bottom line: Saturday's matchup might be the most entertaining, and unpredictable, of the entire weekend.
3. DeAndre Hopkins is a good guy
Texans star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is worth tuning in for simply because he's arguably the NFL's best receiver. He finished in the top five among all receivers this season in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns this season, and only three receivers had more catches of 20-plus yards this year than Hopkins' 23.
But Hopkins received attention this week for doing something remarkable away from the field. On Thursday, he pledged to donate his playoff game check to the family of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Houston last weekend.
"On Saturday, I will be playing in your honor, Jazmine," Hopkins tweeted.
When I see Jazmine Barnes' face, I see my own daughter. I'm pledging my playoff check this week to help her family with funeral costs and to support @shaunking @SherriffED_HCSO @SylvesterTurner in bringing this man to justice. On Saturday, I will be playing in your honor, Jazmine pic.twitter.com/oCRYSgfGO9— Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) January 3, 2019