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Saints mailbag: Should fans cheer for the Rams or Bears on Sunday night?

The New Orleans Saints have a chance to clinch the 2018 NFC South championship with a win on Sunday over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

For some reason, though, that game wasn’t top of mind for most fans who submitted questions for this week’s mailbag. Some focus on the future while others wonder about some of the decisions the Saints are making on offense.

Now, onto the questions.

Let’s consider the possibilities here. The Rams 11-1, and the Bears are 8-4. If the Saints (10-2) beat the Buccaneers, a Bears win over the Rams would boost the Saints back in the No. 1 seed with three games remaining — because the Saints beat the Rams back in Week 9 — while a Rams win would make it easier for the Saints to secure a top-two seed.

The No. 1 seed should be the top target for the Saints. Even though they’ve been equally good on the road as at home this year, everyone on the team would like to have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Fans shouldn’t settle for silver. Go for gold.

Obviously, there’d be a benefit for the Saints if the Bears lose because it would create less competition for the No. 2 seed. At No. 2, the Saints would have at least one home playoff game.

Still, the No. 1 seed should be the goal, and the Rams could easily win out as their remaining games are home against the Eagles, road against the Cardinals and home against the 49ers.

The Bears slate is slightly tougher after this as they finish home against the Packers before going on the road against the 49ers and Vikings.

So, let’s say Saints fans should cheer for the Rams on Sunday night.

Saints center Max Unger providing security, comfort for Drew Brees the past 4 seasons

Unfortunately, I don’t have any information about Terron Armstead’s injury beyond what is listed on the injury report.

After missing the previous three games because of a pectoral muscle injury, Armstead returned to practice this week and was limited Wednesday and Thursday before sitting out Friday and being ruled out for Sunday’s game.

I don’t want to speculate on Armstead’s injury specifically, but typically, a guy practicing less on Friday than Wednesday or Thursday indicates a setback. The other possibility is that Armstead didn’t feel ready, so the Saints just wanted to give Jermon Bushrod all the reps at left tackle and let Armstead rest more. Hopefully, we’ll find out more next week.

This is a question I’ve debated for most of this year, and it’s one that I still honestly don’t know. Personally, I hope the Saints re-sign Ingram because I enjoy talking to him, but the NFL is often a ruthless business.

My gut tells me there’s a 30 percent chance Ingram will be back next year, and that’s higher than I thought before the season began.

I imagine Ingram would like to finish his career with the Saints, and even though the Saints probably want to keep the Boom and Zoom tandem with Alvin Kamara intact, they might not be able to afford to keep Ingram.

Before this season, I thought Ingram was as good as gone in 2019. It’s sensible business not to pay an aging running back when there’s a young stud already on the roster, and after he received a suspension to begin the year, I figured the Saints had soured on him.

Then, in the first four games, it became clear the Saints couldn’t find a suitable replacement, neither in the draft nor in free agency, to assist Kamara with the workload. Next year, the Saints don’t have a pick in the first, third or fourth rounds of the draft, so it will be tougher to find another back, which makes me more inclined to think Ingram could stay around.

For now, the Saints have $15.6 million in cap space for 2019, according to Spotrac, which ranks 28th in the NFL and doesn’t give them much room to make big deals.

Ingram’s deal, though, likely won’t be that big just because of the position he plays. He turns 29 later this month, and although that keeps him on the right side of 30, which is when running backs rarely make much money, there are still going to be teams hesitant to pay him after eight seasons of use.

The best comparison I could find for Ingram in terms of a potential contract is Marshawn Lynch, which is hardly apples to apples. When he came out of his yearlong retirement to sign with the Raiders in 2017, Lynch was 31 and had nine years of NFL experience. Oakland gave him a two-year, $9 million deal.

At $4.5 million per year, Lynch ranks 15th among running backs in terms of average annual value. That would be a slight improvement on Ingram’s $4 million per year on the contract he signed in 2015, but Ingram had his best seasons in 2016 and 2017, which is why he should make more than $4.5 million per year.

Assuming Ingram makes in the area of $5 million per year, the Saints could theoretically afford that with a multi-year deal that pushes money to later years. However, with Michael Thomas, Sheldon Rankins, Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk and Alvin Kamara all due for potentially huge deals in the next few years, Saints GM Mickey Loomis might not want to keep kicking the can down the road.

Additionally, letting Ingram leave would give the Saints a chance to acquire a compensatory pick in 2020 depending on the other moves.

No, Boston Scott is not taking Ingram’s role next year. If anything, Scott is insurance for Kamara more than Ingram.

I feel like I’ve said this before, but I don’t understand why people are so high on Scott. He was impressive in the preseason, but when no other team claimed him on waivers, that should’ve signified that his exhibition performance wasn’t so great. Let him prove himself before loading up the bandwagon.

I saw Ginn around the facility this week, which is probably a good sign that he could return to practice soon. He went on injured reserve before the Week 7 game after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. NFL rules require a player on IR sits out six games before returning to practice and then must practice for two weeks before returning to games.

Ginn could’ve already been practicing, but the Saints don’t have to rush him back. He can still return later this season or even in the postseason, and considering Sean Payton said in October that Ginn could return this year, I’m sticking with that being the likely scenario.

Each team can bring back two players from IR. The Saints already brought back Tommylee Lewis, but the other options are Ginn or offensive lineman Josh LeRibeus. We’ll update you if Ginn returns to practice, but right now, the earliest he could play in a game is Week 17.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your overreaction of the week. In the past three weeks, the Saints have scored 48, 31 and 13 points. Two of those outputs are impressive, and the one from last week against the Cowboys was poor.

I don’t recall anybody — besides the fantasy football crowd — complaining after the Falcons game when Drew Brees threw touchdowns to four undrafted players — Tommylee Lewis, Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood and Dan Arnold.

Sure, the Falcons game two weeks ago wasn’t the Saints’ best as they gained 312 yards, but teams aren’t going to post 500 yards every week, especially against an opponent as familiar as the Falcons.

The Saints had one bad game against a stout Cowboys defense. There’s no reason to start talking about this as a problem.

As for the Kamara and Ingram thing, I think they’ve been less involved in the passing game because they’ve had to block more with Armstead out.

First of all, I’m not a meteorologist. It seems like a cool job, but it leaves a little too much to chance for my liking.

As I write this on Saturday afternoon, it actually appears the chance of rain has dropped significantly. According to Accuweather, there’s a 46 percent chance of rain at kickoff time in Tampa, though it escalates up to 54 percent a couple hours later.

Wind would seem to be the bigger issue, and that doesn’t look too bad either with projected high winds of 10 miles per hour.

It was smart of the Saints to prepare for rain and wind, but they might get lucky to avoid that. Still, if the conditions do come into play, I think the Saints should be able to win a ground-and-pound game. New Orleans ranks 10th in rushing offense and first in rushing defense. Tampa Bay ranks 26th in rushing offense and 21st in rushing defense.

‘It’s going to rain.’ Saints banking on adverse weather this weekend in Tampa Bay

I forgot to ask Sean Payton about Taysom Hill’s limited usage against the Cowboys last week. My assumption is that the Saints didn’t want him to be blocking the stellar Dallas linebackers, but it was still surprising to see him play just seven snaps, which were his fewest since Week 3.

I don’t think that was a sign of things to come. I fully expect Hill to continue playing about 15 snaps per game and heavily on third downs and in the red zone. Those are the situations where Payton wants to stress the defense as much as possible, and while I understand some people not wanting to take the ball out of Brees’ hands, the threat of Hill being on the field has a significant impact on the defense, both in terms of game planning and actually defending short-yardage plays.

Again, no. I assume I’ll get questions about Marshall every week, but he is simply here for depth. That has become clear now that he’s been inactive three games in a row.

Sure, it’d be nice for the Saints to have a 6-foot-5 option in the red zone, but they clearly trust the other receivers more right now. They aren’t exactly lacking size either with Dan Arnold at 6-foot-6, Josh Hill at 6-foot-5, Michael Thomas, Benjamin Watson and Keith Kirkwood at 6-foot-3 and Tre’Quan Smith at 6-foot-2.

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