After missing out on a chance to go against Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in December, Saints right guard Jahri Evans is looking forward to a man-sized, winner-take-all matchup in the NFC wild-card playoffs on Saturday night.
Suh was serving a two-game suspension when the Lions played the Saints on Dec. 4 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the two teams will meet again Saturday in their postseason openers.
When the Saints returned to practice this week, Evans, a two-time All-Pro pick, was relishing the opportunity to go against Suh, who earned a spot on The Associated Press’ All-Pro team and was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2010.
“I like how he plays,” said a smiling Evans, who’ll have the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Suh lined up over him most of the night. “He plays tough and he’s a good defensive lineman. I like the way he plays … he’s just an aggressive guy.”
Suh sat out the earlier meeting with Evans, a 6-4, 318-pounder, and the Saints after stomping on the arm of Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith, continuing a pattern of overly-aggressive play.
“You want to take challenges head-on in the NFL,” said Evans, who last week was named to his third straight Pro Bowl. “He’s a good player.”
BREES HONORED AGAIN: In what wasn’t a big surprise, Saints quarterback Drew Brees was named Wednesday by the NFL as the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for December/January.
Brees led the Saints to eight straight wins to close out the regular season, with the final five coming in December/January when he set the NFL record for single-season passing yards and finished the season with 5,476 yards.
He connected on 73.6 percent of his passes in that stretch, completing 145 of 197 attempts for 1,787 yards with 19 touchdowns and three interceptions, while compiling a passer rating of 127.0.
Brees also won the NFC Player of the Month award in September of both 2008 and ’09.
PRACTICE REPORT: Saints coach Sean Payton issued his first practice participation report of the week on Wednesday for the game with the Lions.
Wide receiver Lance Moore (hamstring), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee) and tight end John Gilmore (toe) did not participate in practice and could be in danger of missing the game with only one big practice left Thursday.
Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) worked on a limited basis, while free safety Malcolm Jenkins (neck), wide receiver Robert Meachem (knee) and safety Jonathon Amaya (shoulder) practiced fully.
JOHNSON SITS: Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, a two-time Pro Bowl pick, did not participate in practice Wednesday because of a sore Achilles’ tendon, but likely will play Sunday.
Johnson also missed practice time last week, but still caught 11 passes for 244 yards, both career highs, in a 45-41 loss to the Packers.
Five key players — safety Louis Delmas (knee), cornerback Chris Houston (hand/knee), running back Kevin Smith (ankle/knee), safety Chris Harris (back) and defensive tackle Nick Fairley (foot).
HOME SWEET HOME: The Saints may have the Lions right where the want them Saturday night.
After setting an NFL record with 329 points and an average of 41.1 points per home game, which easily topped the old mark of 292 points by the St. Louis Rams in 2000, the Saints will try to keep it going against the Lions.
The Saints scored 30 points or more seven times in eight games this season and hit the 40-point mark on five occasions, outscoring their opponents by 329-143 in the Superdome.
KING LIKES SAINTS: Sports Illustrated’s All Football Issue hits newsstands Thursday with their NFL Playoff Preview headlining the issue.
Brees is featured on one of four regional covers for the magazine, which includes Peter King’s prediction that the Saints will take a 34-24 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
While Saints’ fans may be happy with that, LSU fans won’t be thrilled to see an article previewing the BCS National Championship Game — which predicts an Alabama victory.