Don't let the record fool you, the Detroit Lions are not one of the NFL's best teams

An NFL team, particularly one that is in hot contention for a playoff spot this year, is more than just one man -- that goes without saying.

But while Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is not the only player on the field in light blue and silver -- he's not snapping the ball to himself and running for every yard -- no team in the league is more reliant on a single player than Detroit.

The Lions are 9-4 on the season and sit in first place in the NFC North. According to FootballOutsiders, they have a 75 percent chance of making the playoffs this season. If the Lions go 2-1 down the stretch and win their season finale against the Packers, they'll clinch the division for the first time since 1993.

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It's been a strong campaign, reminiscent of the team's excellent -- but unexpected -- 2014 campaign, which saw them go 11-5.

Only this time, the Lions' success is a house of cards.

Two weeks ago against the New Orleans Saints, the Lions did something they hadn't done all season -- they didn't fall behind in the fourth quarter.

Eight of the Lions' wins this season have come in comeback efforts this season, but that 28-13 road win was the first game where Stafford didn't need to create late-game magic.

Through the first 13 weeks of the season, the Lions and winless Browns were the only two teams to have trailed in every fourth quarter they played this season. Elite company for a playoff-contending team like Detroit.

Of course, last week, against a Bears team playing a practice squad defense and starting Matt Barkley at quarterback, the Lions fell back into old habits, falling behind by four points and needing a Stafford touchdown run with 3:17 remaining to win.

Even then, a neutral observer of that game would say that Chicago lost the game rather than Detroit won it.

So while plenty of teams would rather be lucky than good -- ask the Chargers if they'd like to trade places -- the Lions are really pushing the limits of fortune this season and a regression could well come at the worst possible time.

To Stafford's credit, he has been sensational this year. The 28-year-old quarterback is playing without future Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson for the first time, and yet he's having a career year, working the ball around the field with precision and a full command of the offense. Behind an offensive line that's made a huge year-to-year leap, Stafford has come into his own as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and become a viable MVP candidate.

The Lions might look a lot like the Bears without him.

That's because Detroit has the second-worst defense in the NFL this season, per DVOA, grading out poorly against both the run and pass. The Lions' defensive line and linebacker corps have been average at their absolute best and woeful at their more frequent worst. The secondary has shown more upside, but outside of cornerback Darius Slay, reliability has been a significant issue -- receivers over the middle have feasted on the Lions.

The Lions are two wins better than they should be to this point in the season in a sport where upward variance is rare. According to ProFootballReference's Simple Ratings System, the Lions are the third-best team in their own division.

And yet they control their own destiny.

Unless the Lions have another gear they're planning to bust out for the final three weeks of the regular, the threat of regression looms.

Will it come over the next two weeks, when the Lions play the Giants and Cowboys back-to-back and their below-average strength of schedule firms? (Detroit has only beaten one viable playoff team, Washington, this season.)

Will it come in the final game of the season, which could determine the NFC North?

Will it come in the playoffs, should the Lions make it?

Or will the magic continue for the rest of the campaign?

No one knows, because frankly, it's amazing the Lions have made it this far in the first place.