Home-field advantage

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the themes this week for the New England Patriots has been getting familiar with an Arizona Cardinals team they don't see often.

But for Cardinals fullback Anthony Sherman, it doesn't get much more familiar than this.

Sherman returns home Sunday to play in a stadium not far from his roots in North Attleboro, where he starred in high school before enrolling at UConn. He requested 31 tickets for the game, but is expecting a larger crowd than that.

Many of the locals who spend their Sunday afternoons at Fitzy's Pub -- a hot spot for those from town closely following his career in Arizona -- will instead make their way to Gillette Stadium.

"They watch the game together as a big group on NFL Sunday Ticket," Sherman said this week in anticipation of the game. "Definitely a lot of support."

Sherman, a 2011 fifth-round draft choice, played 19 snaps on offense and another 19 on special teams in Arizona's 20-16 season-opening win over the Seattle Seahawks. As a rookie last season, he played in 15 of 16 regular-season games, often paving the way for running back Beanie Wells, who rushed for 1,047 yards.

Sherman's contributions to the Cardinals were noted by Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

"He's done a solid job for them," Belichick said Friday. "He has a good role in the kicking game and a good role offensively -- more of a blocker than a ball carrier. He's also involved in some of their third-down offense, in pass protection, and as a receiver; [he] catches the ball. Tough kid."

Sherman knows the Cardinals, who are heavy underdogs, have a big challenge ahead.

"We definitely know we have to execute this week. They're a great team and we can't make mistakes that we did last time," he said, referencing a 47-7 blowout loss to the Patriots in 2008. "It's going to be a great test."

As for Sherman's role with the Cardinals, he's ready for anything.

"I definitely want to just contribute in any way, and the coaches know that," he said. "We're going to put the best players on the field and they put us in the best situation."