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The Chiefs defense might be getting better, and that’s scary for the rest of the NFL

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The Kansas City defense has shown signs of growth, and that makes a tough team to beat even more of a nightmare.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 Kansas City Chiefs have scored 260 points through their first seven games. That’s the fifth-most ever at this point of the NFL season. Three of the top four teams — the 2013 Broncos, 2000 Rams, 2007 Patriots, and 2009 Saints — went to the Super Bowl because, well, points are good.

It turns out when you score a historic amount of points, you can outscore your opponents more often than not. Who knew?

The danger is that a prolific offense puts a lot of pressure on a defense. And if the avalanche of points doesn’t bury an opponent, things could get bad. That’s been the concern for the Chiefs with a defense that has looked suspect all year ... except in Week 7.

The Cincinnati Bengals managed just 239 yards of total offense against the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, the lowest total allowed by Kansas City since the 2015 season.

Yes, it was Andy Dalton in primetime — a notoriously easy out. His career passer rating during games that kick off in the 1 p.m. or 4-4:30 p.m. slates is 90.8 and it drops to 80.3 in evening games. But he had no problem lighting up the Ravens with four touchdowns in a 34-23 win on Thursday Night Football in Week 2.

Against the Chiefs, he couldn’t do a thing and even threw a pick-six to safety Ron Parker for good measure. The Bengals barely managed to score in the double digits in a 45-10 rout. It was a low point for Dalton and the Cincinnati offense this season.

But was it a turning point for the Kansas City defense?

The Chiefs defense is young — and getting better

There’s a lot of youth on the Kansas City defense. After parting ways with Bennie Logan, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Marcus Peters, Terrance Mitchell, Phillip Gaines, and Darrelle Revis, there were a lot of spots to fill.

It’s the reason why the Chiefs picked four defensive players — Breeland Speaks, Derrick Nnadi, Dorian O’Daniel, and Armani Watts — with their first four picks of the 2018 NFL Draft. But those players have each slowly been integrated into the lineup.

And now, nearly halfway into their rookie seasons, Speaks, Nnadi, and O’Daniel are making an impact.

Nnadi made his first start in Week 5, Speaks in Week 6, and while O’Daniel still hasn’t started a game, he got his first significant action in Week 7. According to Pro Football Focus, O’Daniel was the Chiefs’ third-best defender against the Bengals.

Watts was lost to injured reserve with a groin injury and there’s still a lot of growing to do for Nnadi and Speaks. But as the young guns get more involved, the arrow could be pointing up for the Chiefs defense.

Eric Berry and Justin Houston didn’t even play in Week 7

The Chiefs still haven’t had Berry in the lineup in 2018, and there’s no timetable for his return. It’s possible he won’t be back at all, although there’s at least one report that the Chiefs think he’ll play this season.

That’d be a welcomed addition for the Chiefs, because Berry is great. He was the team’s best defender in 2016 and started the 2017 season by shutting down Rob Gronkowski before suffering a season-ending Achilles tear.

If he returns and plays anything like his former self, that’d be a huge upgrade at free safety, where Eric Murray and Jordan Lucas have struggled.

Some help is coming at safety with Eric Sorensen set to return from a knee injury, but the bigger boost will come if Berry is ready to contribute in the postseason.

The more imminent return is from Justin Houston, who missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. It’s been a while since Houston almost broke the single-season sack record in 2014, but even the current version of the pass rusher is a helpful addition.

He had 9.5 sacks a year ago and three sacks in his five games so far in 2018.

The Chiefs are still giving up more yards than every other team in the NFL right now. And the defense probably won’t play like a top-five unit in the last 10 weeks of the season. But their best days may be ahead of them.

If that’s the case, watch out. Paired with the league’s top-scoring offense, the Chiefs could end up being even more of a nightmare for the rest of the NFL.