After dropping four of their last five, the Ravens can get off their skid with a reeling Cleveland Browns club. The Browns have seen multiple issues in the past few that could be debilitating to any franchise, let alone one that is at the bottom of the AFC North with a 1-7 record.
- There has been a constant quarterback controversy in Cleveland, as the Ravens got Brady Quinn benched in favor of Derek Anderson at halftime of these two teams' last meeting. After an abysmal five starts by Anderson, Quinn will be back on Monday night.
- Former Ravens director of pro personnel George Kokinis was recently dismissed because of what has been reported as a rift between he and coach Eric Mangini.
- Their top running back, former Raven Jamal Lewis, abruptly declared his plans to retire after the season ends.
- And this week, Lewis publicly criticized Mangini's tough practice habits, saying that Cleveland's 2 1/2- to 3-hour practices were wearing the players out and leaving no energy for games. Lewis said he'd worked more in pads in the first eight weeks for the Browns in three or four years with Baltimore.
Mangini has come out to say that there are no problems in the locker room, and the two spoke after Thursday's practice to apparently resolve the matter.
"We exchanged ideas and came up with certain things that can be done [and he] gave me his views on why we do certain things,'' Lewis said, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. ''It dealt with more miscommunication and not actually going to talk to him or bringing up different issues that you might be feeling. We agreed to disagree sometimes.
"We settled things in house. That's how it should've been dealt with from the start."
Still, Cleveland's internal problems cannot be ignored.
Will that spill out onto the field next Monday night when the Ravens travel to Cleveland Browns Stadium?
The Ravens are not concerned with any of that, considering their drive to start a new winning streak and separate themselves from a packed middle tier of three-, four- and five-win AFC teams vying for a playoff spot.
In view of an upcoming schedule that includes the undefeated Indianapolis Colts and two matchups against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens are not taking Cleveland lightly.
"As an athlete, in whatever you do, you want to be challenged," said wideout Derrick Mason. "Whether you're cutting grass and the guy next door to you is cutting his grass, and he's cutting his grass faster, you want to cut your grass a little bit faster.
"We look forward to the challenge that is presented to us. We have Pittsburgh twice. [We have] Indy. We've got to fly down to Oakland and Cleveland this upcoming Monday at their place. This challenge is going to be a good one, and it's going to really test our character moving forward. Are we going to give in, or are we going to continue to fight as a team? I believe we are going to continue to fight."
The Ravens are in a tough position, though. In their previous four losses, the Ravens have been plagued by penalties, missed tackles, dropped passes and mental errors. Beating the Browns is a victory regardless of the margin, but failure to do so without an elimination of those problems will no doubt cause grumblings from fans and media alike.
"Let's not get the holding calls and get the penalties that are really killing us," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Let's catch the ball, let's not give up the big runs, let's not give up the big play. So, all of those things come into play.
"Now is the time that you can really slow down and focus yourself on those little things and say, 'These are what we need to get better on. So, the next eight games, let's take it for what it's worth and see where we end up at the end of the day.'"
If the Ravens had not lost handily last Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals, "Monday Night Football" in Cleveland could be considered a classic "trap game" with the Colts looming next.
With the Ravens on the ropes, there are no traps this week.
"At 4-4 with eight games left, if you even want a shot you better play some outstanding football," said linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs. "No, [the Bengals] haven't waken us up, but they've shown us what can happen if you don't take care of business at home and you don't win the games you're supposed to win.
"Maybe you can get in [the playoffs] at 8-8, but that stinks. That really stinks. 'Yeah we got in, we're in the playoffs at 8-8.' But you don't really feel too good. We definitely need to play some outstanding football these last eight games."