It would usually take an absolute leap of faith to plug a running back into a fantasy lineup who was benched the prior game. However, this is not a typical week for the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints running backs draw a dream matchup in Week 9, so any fantasy owners with New Orleans tailbacks on their roster must trust and find them, including Mark Ingram, a spot in the starting lineup.
New Orleans coach Sean Payton benched Ingram last Sunday against Seattle because he lost a fumble for the second straight week about midway through the first quarter. The benching resulted in the 26-year-old seeing the field for only six plays. He finished the day with five rushing yards on three attempts, so throw in the negative-2 points for the fumble, and Ingram was in the red during Week 8.
Adding insult to injury, backup running back Tim Hightower came off the bench, received 26 carries and rushed for 102 yards. It’s been over a year since Ingram had that many yards and nearly two years since Payton called his number that many times on running plays during a single game.
With the former Alabama running back averaging a career-worst 3.8 yards per carry this season and suddenly dealing with a fumbling problem, one has to wonder whether Payton will just stick with Hightower altogether. This possibility makes Ingram a shaky fantasy start.
If he had a difficult matchup this Sunday, it would be wise to not even bother with Ingram, but not only does the former first-round pick have an easy matchup, it’s the most favorable one any running back could ask for this year. New Orleans visits the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, and the 49ers allow the most fantasy points to opposing running backs in the league.
San Francisco yields a league-high 185.1 rushing yards per game, and they have allowed a 100-yard rusher franchise-record six straight contests. In the last two weeks alone, the 49ers have allowed 562 rushing yards.
It doesn’t get any juicier than that. Even if Ingram shares the backfield, he could be in for a huge day.
As long as he doesn’t fumble again, all signs point towards Ingram in at least a backfield-by-committee Sunday. Payton said after last week’s game that he believes Ingram will “bounce back”, indicating the coach hasn’t completely lost all confidence in his former first-round pick.
And despite the 100-yard game, Hightower did struggle at times versus Seattle, leaving the door open for Ingram to return to the feature-back role. Hightower averaged just 3.92 yards per rush, and he failed to punch the ball into the end zone from the Seahawks 1-yard line twice. Ingram should absolutely get the goal-line carries this Sunday.
For these reasons, Ingram still needs to be considered a RB2 in 10-team leagues during Week 9. Especially with so many running backs out again on bye, owners can’t afford to sit Ingram.
Hightower should be in most lineups too. Consider his a low-end RB2 in 12-team leagues or a FLEX possibility in 10-team formats. The San Francisco run defense is that bad.
The Saints appear ready to give Ingram a second (or is this his third) chance, so don’t be shy about trusting him one more week against the worst run defense in the NFL.