Reminded of the "RCW" patch Bills players are wearing on their jerseys, Fred Jackson looked to the heavens and wondered if the team's late owner might be pulling a few strings.
Something certainly seems to be up in Buffalo.
Though the veteran running back is not the superstitious type, Jackson was among several players who vowed to dedicate this season to Ralph C. Wilson shortly after the Hall of Fame owner died in March.
And wonder of wonders, look at them now. The Bills (5-3) are entering their bye week firmly in the AFC playoff picture after showing newfound resolve, overcoming a rash of injuries, yet another quarterback shuffle and several last-minute deficits.
"Ralph is looking out for us," Jackson said. "I'm not one to shy away from that. He's putting us in the right places. He is with us."
How else to explain what's gone right for a franchise that has struggled staying relevant during a 14-season playoff drought — the NFL's longest active streak — and nine straight years without a winning record.
Buffalo's encouraging start follows a tumultuous offseason during which Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer, and Wilson's death raised concerns about the franchise potentially relocating under new ownership.
By September, those fears melted away.
On Sept. 4, doctors informed Kelly he was cancer-free after completing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Five days later, the Bills' long-term future in western New York was secured after Wilson's estate agreed to sell the franchise for an NFL-record $1.4 billion to NHL Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula.
"Yeah, it was a crazy time there, a lot of uncertainty," Jackson recalled. "And with all that settled, now it's just about going and playing football."
The Bills have been resilient going about their on-field business, riding the crest of a momentous wave. Three of their wins have been decided on their final offensive possession.
That includes Buffalo overcoming a 14-0 deficit to beat the Lions 17-14 on Dan Carpenter's 58-yard field goal with 4 seconds left. It came in the Bills' final game under the Wilson family's ownership, and in Wilson's hometown of Detroit, no less.
Not even a laser-pointing fan in the Ford Field stands could distract them.
"Like some magic energy or something?" coach Doug Marrone said, when asked whether Buffalo's streak of good fortune is coincidental. "I'm probably the worst person to ask that question only because for me, it's right there. I need to have a sense of blinders and realism to all the things that we have to do."
Marrone's job is far from done as Buffalo prepares to open the second half hosting Kansas City on Nov. 9, followed by a division game at Miami four days later.
Buffalo has not made the playoffs the previous three times it hit the midpoint of the season with a winning record, including 2011, when the team turned a 5-3 start into a 6-10 finish.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams has been around for two of those collapses, and believes this team is built to reverse that trend.
"The way this team responds is mostly what I think is different," Williams said. "When the going gets tough or when things seem like they've turned against this team, the response has been strong."
The Bills' strength remains their defense, which has a league-leading 28 sacks and 12 interceptions.
Their offense has found focus since 10-year journeyman quarterback Kyle Orton took over after second-year starter EJ Manuel was benched following a 2-2 start.
Orton has quickly established chemistry with Buffalo's young group of receivers, led by Sammy Watkins. The rookie first-round pick has emerged as the team's top threat at a time Buffalo's running attack has been severely slowed by injuries.
Jackson is expected to miss two more weeks with a groin injury, while C.J. Spiller (collarbone) is not eligible to return until Week 16.
At 33, Jackson is itching to return, knowing this just might be his last and best shot at helping the Bills secure a playoff spot.
"Oh man, this is a great opportunity for us right now," Jackson said. "I like the momentum that we have, and I want to be a part of it."
Four years ago, when the Bills were entering their bye week at 0-7, Wilson told The Associated Press he anticipated it would take another three to four years for his team to become a contender.
"It's going to take time," Wilson said. "I'm patient for the fans of Buffalo. I probably won't be around, but they will be. And I hope we can get it done."
In some ways, thanks to Wilson, the Bills are halfway home.
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