BALTIMORE -- The last time things looked this hopeless for the Raiders, they played their best game of the season.
A trip to face unbeaten Atlanta on Oct. 14 ended in a last-second defeat, but it's worth remembering the Raiders were regarded as a noncombatant, much as they are Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
With running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson and defensive tackle Richard Seymour out with injuries, the point spread in some instances is approaching double digits.
The approach for the Raiders is similar to that of the Falcons game. It's an Eastern time zone game against a 6-2 team with a 14-game winning streak at home and a recent history of consistent success.
"They're an exceptional team," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "They're another one of those teams that has a formula for success and they know how to win. They're extremely tough to play in that building, so obviously we've got our work cut out for us."
The Raiders (3-5) are coming off a 42-32 home loss to Tampa Bay during which they gave up 251 yards rushing to rookie Doug Martin, 515 yards overall and more big plays than they would hope to give up in a quarter of a season.
And here come the Ravens, with running back Ray Rice, built along the lines of Martin only more accomplished, and an explosive passing offense led by quarterback Joe Flacco.
Meanwhile, the Raiders will utilize Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reece in the backfield, players who have one carry each this season.
"Football games are won on the field, they're not won on paper," Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said by conference call. "They're not won on who's playing and who's not playing."
At the midway point of the season, the Raiders are a team that has had difficulty running the ball but has moved it through the air behind quarterback Carson Palmer, who has 2,355 yards passing and 13 touchdowns.
It has operated best with Palmer in a no-huddle situation, with 40 of its 46 second-quarter points this season coming in the final two minutes of the first half.
"You know, if I had an answer to that, I'd have it fixed," Allen said. "We're attempting to figure it out, but we have been good in the last two minutes of the first half and been able to move the ball and score points, and we've got to find a way to transfer that into other parts of the game."
The same could be said for the third quarter, where the Raiders have been outscored 88-24.
Defensively, the Raiders have been all over the map -- very good against the run in some games (San Diego, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Kansas City) and very bad in some others (Miami, Tampa Bay).
They went the first quarter of the season without an interception, then had five in a three-game period.
There are subtle hints that the Ravens, despite their record, are not the dominating presence of past years along the defensive front seven. Thirteen-time Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis is out with a torn triceps, and the Ravens rank 28th against the run and are giving up 4.0 yards per carry -- something they haven't done over 16 games for the last 16 seasons.
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is not himself with bad shoulder, and standout cornerback Lardarius Webb was lost for the season with a torn ACL. On the plus side, Suggs looks as if he hasn't lost much despite missing the first six games after a six-month recovery from a torn Achilles.
"It's always an uphill battle against Baltimore," said Palmer, who was 9-4 in his career against the Ravens while with Cincinnati. "Their numbers are not statistically where they normally are, and they've had some injuries. But they're still 6-2, and still very good at home."
Lee started seven games, moving into the lineup in Week 2 after Bartell (broken shoulder blade) and Spencer (foot sprain) were lost in the first two games.
Although Allen said recently there had been no setbacks regarding Spencer, he did say the healing process was taking longer than anticipated. Spencer, who signed a one-year contract last offseason, played in just two games.
The moves suggest Michael Huff, moved to cornerback in Week 3, will be there the rest of the season, starting opposite Bartell with Matt Giordano the starting free safety.