Playoff odds and ramifications for Ravens

It's not a newsflash that Sunday's game at Chicago is a big one for the Baltimore Ravens. At 4-5, the Ravens know they have to win at least five of their next seven games to have a shot at making the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.

When you break down what NFL history says about this game, you'll understand just how important beating the Bears really is.

Under the current playoff format which began in 1990, only 7 percent of teams to start 4-6 went on to make the playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That percentage jumps to 29 percent for teams starting 5-5.

This proves to be an accurate barometer in Ravens history as well. Of the 10 times the Ravens have had a .500 record or better after 10 games, they have advanced to the postseason nine times. The only misstep was 2004, when they didn't get to the postseason after a 7-3 start. When the Ravens have had a losing record after 10 games, they have never reached the playoffs.

This is a pivotal four-game stretch for the Ravens. After playing at Chicago, Baltimore has three home games in a row against teams (New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings) who are a combined 10-17 (.370). The Ravens need a good run there, because they finish the season against three division leaders: at the Detroit Lions (6-3), home against the New England Patriots (7-2), and at the Cincinnati Bengals (6-4).

The Ravens are currently 1 1/2 games behind the Bengals in the AFC North and just one game behind the Jets (5-4) for the final playoff spot in the AFC.