Mankins: Mental toughness needed to overcome Seattle atmosphere

621444.jpg

Mankins: Mental toughness needed to overcome Seattle atmosphere

FOXBORO -- If we know anything at all about Sunday's game between the Patriots and the Seahawks, it's that CenturyLink Field is going to be as loud as any stadium in the history of the sport.

For New Englanders who have never been to Seattle to witness a Seahawks game first-hand, all you have is the good word of the Patriots players who have played there before.

And veteran Vince Wilfork wants you to believe him when he says it's abnormally loud.

"Probably Seattle. Seattle is probably one of the loudest stadiums around," said Wilfork before Thursday's practice at Gillette Stadium. "And you know what? It shows. The offsides penalties and stuff. It shows."

Wilfork and the rest of the Patriots defense won't have it quite as bad as New England's offense though. Seahawks fans will want their quarterback to work under a much less hectic environment than Tom Brady.

So, what do offensive players think of the noise level in Seattle?

"It's a tough place to play," said Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins on Thursday. "Been there before. It's super loud. They have a good defense, so it's going to be tough.

"I've been in some loud ones. It's one of the loudest. Last time I was there, their team wasn't that good. They were out of the playoffs already and that place was still rocking. So, they've got good support out there."

For all the talk about New England's lightning-quick no-huddle offense, the Seahawks' fan base hopes to throw a wrench into those plans with their noise volume, making the Patriots' communication with each other that much more difficult especially on the offensive line.

"A lot of it's mental toughness," said Mankins. "Just being able to focus through that. It takes a lot of communication. You can't just look over and say it. You've got to scream it to the guy next to you, so he can hear you. Just making sure everyone's on the same page, when you can't verbally get on the same page all the time."

Raiders creep past Patriots in race for top seed in AFC

Raiders creep past Patriots in race for top seed in AFC

The Patriots and Raiders and neck-and-neck as the race for home field in the AFC turns for home. And, with four games left, the Raiders are ahead by a nose. The tiebreakers between the 10-2 teams in play currently? Common games followed by strength of victory. 

The first tiebreaker – conference record – is a deadlock as both teams are 7-1 in the AFC (the Brady-less Patriots lost to the Bills back in Week 4.

After conference record, it's the teams record in common games. 

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

So far in common games with the Texans and Bills, the Patriots have gone 2-1 and the Raiders have gone 2-0. The Patriots play the Ravens next week. Oakland beat them. The Patriots play Denver after that. Oakland beat them as well but have one more game against Denver in Week 17.

So if it comes down to common games the Patriots really need to win these next two games.

Or hope the Raiders stub their toe a time or two in their final four games which are at the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos with a home game against Indy in Week 16.

As for strength of victory, that too goes to Oakland at this point. The Raiders’ strength of victory is at .471. The Patriots’ is at .370.

But the tiebreaker that kicks in after conference record and before strength of victory – common games – is very much unresolved.The remaining picture as it stands right now? The Ravens are the No. 3 seed with a 7-5 record that leads the AFC North. The Texans’ 6-6 record is good enough to lead the AFC South. The 9-3 Chiefs are the top Wild Card. The 8-4 Broncos are the No. 6 seed.

The Patriots play the Ravens and Broncos over the next two weeks. Currently, the Dolphins (7-5) and Steelers (7-5) are on the outside looking in.

The Titans (6-6) will have a chance to get even with the Texans in Week 17 in head-to-head matchups but they host Denver and play at Kansas City the next two weeks so they have obstacles to clear before they get there.