Kansas City Chiefs

Eric Berry’s return imminent, but can he fix the Chiefs defense?

The Kansas City Chiefs are dreadful on defense, but they’re 10-2 and have a chance at home field advantage. Now Eric Berry is set to return in Week 15 and that could be just what they need.

Eric Berry hasn’t played all season because of a heel injury but he’s expected to make his season debut on Thursday when the Chiefs host the Chargers.

The return of the former All-Pro safety has been tantalizingly close since he returned to practice during the team’s Week 12 bye. Patrick Mahomes and the offense has been able to outscore opponents to sit at 10-2 but the pass defense ranks last in the league, allowing 295 yards per game.

The return of Berry will address the team’s most glaring weakness as they play for home-field advantage.

Kansas City’s defense is 31st in total yards allowed, 32nd in pass yards allowed and 22nd in rushing yards allowed. The biggest reason they aren’t worse against the run is that teams throw the ball 65 percent because they have to keep up with their offense.

The Chiefs had the luxury of being cautious with Berry to avoid a setback and making sure he’s playing his best football in the playoffs. The Chiefs own the top seed in the AFC over the 9-3 Patriots who own the tie-breaker over them due to their regular season win.

Where the Chiefs really struggle is in the middle of the field. Running backs and tight ends have had their way with their safeties and linebackers. The Rams ate them alive with their tight ends. The go-ahead touchdown was to Gerald Everett with Daniel Sorensen. The dagger play against the Patriots was then newly acquired Josh Shaw trying to cover Rob Gronkowski.

In the Chiefs two losses, it’s been those two positions that have killed this team. The good news is that Eric Berry is probably the best middle of the field safety in the NFL. He is the Chiefs ultimate swiss army knife. He can play in the box which is something defensive coordinator Bob Sutton asks his safeties to do a lot, and he is really good in coverage. The last game he played he effectively shut down Gronkowski, and was right in the middle of two fourth down stops.

The one thing the Chiefs are really good at is getting after the quarterback. They’ve racked up 39 sacks so far, and Dee Ford leads all edge rushers in total pressure per Pro Football Focus. They’re also one of two teams in the NFL with two players with 10 or more sacks. Pair that with a playmaker like Berry, and you can do a lot more schematically.

Should Berry officially return next Thursday against the Chargers it’ll be right on time because Melvin Gordon torched the Chiefs for 166 total yards. Then they’ll play the Seahawks who run the ball more than any team in the NFL.

Then in the playoffs, the Chiefs could meet quarterbacks Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers, Deshaun Watson and/or Andrew Luck in potential games.

Having Berry on the field would go a long way in their quest to reach a Super Bowl.

Next: NFL Mock Draft: Jets give Darnold help

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