HOUSTON — Saturday’s wild-card game between the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts is a matchup that seemed improbable early this season after Houston dropped its first three games and the Colts limped to a 1-5 start.

Instead of letting their tough starts lead to disappointing years, these teams that both finished 4-12 last season turned things around to lead the AFC South and charge into the postseason.

Houston’s rebound began at the expense of the Colts (10-6), thanks in part to a controversial call by Indianapolis Coach Frank Reich in overtime. The score was 34-34 when instead of punting on fourth-and-4 from his 43 and likely settling for a tie, Reich called for a short pass from Andrew Luck to Chester Rogers.

Luck’s pass fell incomplete, Houston got a 24-yard completion on the next play, and Ka’imi Fairbairn made a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Texans (11-5) a 37-34 victory.

“We knew that to be able to come out on the winning end of that game was a big thing for us, but that’s a long time ago,” Houston Coach Bill O’Brien said. “The teams have evolved over time so it’s a new ballgame now.”

The win was the first of nine straight for Houston. The Texans didn’t lose again until a visit from the Colts on Dec. 9, a 24-21 Indianapolis victory.

Houston then won two of its last three games, capped by a 20-3 victory Sunday over the Jaguars to clinch the division and become the sixth team since 1980 and first since 1998 to make the playoffs after a 0-3 start.

The Colts’ loss to Houston in Week 4 was the second of four straight that dropped them to 1-5. Indianapolis then won its next five and nine of its last 10 to make its first playoff appearance since a 2014 AFC championship-game loss at New England.

Yes, that was the Deflategate game.

The Colts are the third team to reach the postseason after losing five of the first six games.

NFC: Russell Wilson won a wild-card game with Seattle as a rookie, a Super Bowl in his second season and another NFC championship the third time around.

The best Dak Prescott can hope for with the Dallas Cowboys is to join Wilson on that list of title winners in his third year, a quest that will start with a playoff meeting of quarterbacks with a lot in common.

Both were mid-round draft picks who became instant successes. The difference is Prescott lost his first playoff game after guiding the Cowboys to the top seed in the NFC two years ago, then had to wait two years for his second chance. It comes in a home wild-card game Saturday night.

“When you say a quarterback’s success depends on the playoffs, I think that’s where the checks are written and they make their money,” Prescott said. “Our job is to win no matter what happens, no matter how you played individually. At the end of the day, it’s to get the job done.”

When Wilson finally missed the playoffs in his sixth season last year, the Seahawks were eliminated on the final weekend – after bouncing Prescott and the Cowboys from contention with a Week 16 road win.

Seattle was 0-2 this year when the season turned on a 24-13 win over the visiting Cowboys (10-6), with the Seahawks following a familiar formula from their Super Bowl days: an efficient Wilson, strong running game and playmaking defense.

The Seahawks (10-6) kept it up despite overhauling the roster, mostly notably dismantling key pieces of the “Legion of Boom” defense.

An important exception has been linebacker Bobby Wagner, who was just selected as an All-Pro for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

“The great thing about this team is the fact that everybody was telling us we couldn’t,” Wilson said. “It shows the heart of this team and it shows the mindset of this team to be able to think the way that you want to think, and the places that you want to go. To think big, to believe big.”

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