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Saints running back Mark Ingram has fumbled twice this season after fumbling twice all of last season and only six times in his first five seasons. | Reed Hoffmann/AP

Fantasy football: Keep the faith with Saints RB Ingram

SHARE Fantasy football: Keep the faith with Saints RB Ingram
SHARE Fantasy football: Keep the faith with Saints RB Ingram

It’s hard to have faith in a player who would have helped more on your bench than in your lineup. But don’t bail on Saints running back Mark Ingram just yet, even though he tallied minus-2 points Sunday.

Ingram finished in the red because he fumbled on his third carry – which the Seahawks returned for a touchdown – and never took the field again. Coach Sean Payton turned the running game over to Tim Hightower, who finished with 102 yards on 26 carries.

Payton defended Ingram to an extent, saying he wasn’t being careless with the ball. But Ingram also lost a fumble the previous week while the Saints were trying to rally against the Chiefs. Two in two games apparently was enough.

But Ingram doesn’t have a long history of fumblitis. He fumbled twice all of last season and only six times in his first five seasons. Plus, he had averaged 16 carries in his previous four games entering last week.

Payton said Hightower earned more playing time because of his relief appearance, but keep in mind he was more steady than spectacular. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry and failed to score on four tries from the 1-yard line.

Even with a reduced workload, Ingram still could exploit some favorable matchups. He’ll face the 49ers’ league-worst run defense and the Broncos’ 24th-ranked unit the next two weeks. He also has two games against the Buccaneers, who rank 22nd.

It’s still a good idea for Ingram owners to handcuff Hightower. He finished last season strong after Ingram went down for the year, scoring four touchdowns and breaking 100 yards once in the last four games.

But Ingram isn’t hurt this time, and he’s too capable and talented to remain tethered to the bench. The Saints just need to have faith.

Stewart finding paydirt

Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart has two touchdowns in back-to-back games for the first time in his nine-year career. With four for the season, he’s only three shy of his total from last season. He hasn’t scored more than seven in a season since 2009, his second year in the league, when he had 11.

Stewart appears to be in fine form since missing three games with a hamstring injury, and he has complete command of the backfield. He had 19 and 25 carries in the last two games. No other Panthers running back had more than three.

His next three game are against middle-of-the-pack run defenses before a prime matchup against the 28th-ranked Raiders. Start him with confidence.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffreyA22.

Email: jagrest@suntimes.com

WEEK 9 OUTLOOK

Bye weeks: Bears, Bengals, Patriots, Cardinals, Redskins, Texans.

STOCK MARKET

RISING

Cardinals WR J.J. Nelson: He had eight catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, and coach Bruce Arians said he’s now a starter.

Colts WR Donte Moncrief: He looked good in his first game since Week 2 (shoulder) and could be leaned on with T.Y. Hilton and Phillip Dorsett nursing injuries.

FALLING

Redskins WR DeSean Jackson: That’s five consecutive games with single-digit scoring. If you haven’t dropped him yet, feel free to do so.

Jets WR Brandon Marshall: After failing to exploit a porous Browns defense, he has had no more than four catches and 70 yards in his last three games.

MATCHUPS

STUDS

49ers RB Carlos Hyde: He should be back from a shoulder injury just in time to face a Saints defense that has allowed the second-most points per game to RBs.

Ravens RB Terrance West: Expect him to bounce back from a one-point outing against the Steelers, who have allowed 73 points to RBs in the last two games.

DUDS

Giants QB Eli Manning: He has scored in single digits in three of the last four games, and the Eagles have allowed the fourth-fewest points per game to QBs.

Raiders QB Derek Carr: Expect him to come back to earth against the Broncos, who haven’t allowed more than 14 points to quarterbacks since Week 1.

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