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Vic Carucci's Bills Wake-Up Call: Maybe a playoff run is thinkable

Something seems different about this edition of the Buffalo Bills.

Something that makes you think it just might be capable of holding its own through the final five weeks of the season. Something that says there just might not be a typical Buffalo finish where hopes created in November go spinning into a ditch in December.

Here's what's different about these Bills: They have stretches where they sink to the level of bad competition, yet somehow never manage to fall below it.

The Bills didn't allow that to happen two weeks ago against the three-win Cincinnati Bengals. The same was true on Sunday against two-win Jacksonville.

Except for the New York Jets, the Bills have done precisely what they're supposed to do against bottom-dwelling teams on the way to a 6-5 record.

That's progress.

Games such as Sunday's 28-21 victory against the Jaguars once had a tendency to go a different way. Same for the 16-12 win at Cincinnati.

The Bills would find a way lose, just as they did when they lost to Jacksonville in London last year. The offense wouldn't just stall for a half, as it did Sunday. It would go nowhere the entire game, adding some turnovers to an ugly miss. The defense? You could count on it to give up big plays at the end.

The Bills of old would self-destruct. They would unravel.

Most of all, they would make it imminently clear they had no business even thinking about the playoffs, let alone playing in them.

Not so much with these Bills.

Tyrod Taylor bounces back from a putrid first half with a couple of big throws and important runs. LeSean McCoy, overcoming a surgically repaired left thumb, makes a 75-yard touchdown run that one day will be part of a discussion by voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sammy Watkins, in his first action since lingering foot issues landed him on IR in September, makes a game-breaking, 62-yard catch.

The defense? Instead of folding, it makes two massive stops in the final minutes. And it does so despite being without Marcell Dareus, who was having a monster game before suffering an abdominal injury.

A couple of weeks ago, if you allowed yourself to ponder the Bills' pathway to the postseason, you accepted as a given that the Oakland and Pittsburgh games would be the most difficult -- that stealing at least one win in those was a must.

You also accepted the very real possibility of a loss or two in games that figured to be won: Jacksonville, Cleveland, Miami, and the Jets.

Granted, the Dolphins are playing well, but the Bills did blow an 11-point lead to lose to them on the road on Oct. 23. And now Derek Carr, the Raiders' red-hot quarterback, is dealing with a badly dislocated pinky on his throwing hand. And the Steelers' defense looks pretty vulnerable.

If these Bills are, in fact, different than the ones that had a way of not showing up during the past 16 years, a 4-1 finish doesn't seem all that crazy. Neither does 5-0.

The latter seems as if it will be necessary if the Bills are going to end their playoff drought, although 10-6 just might get it done. And even if it doesn't, it will far exceed the majority of preseason predictions.

Who knows? Playmakers are returning and games that should be won are being won. Maybe, just maybe, the hopes of November actually stay on the road this year.

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