Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
The Pittsburgh Steelers are the easy choice for the top spot on this list. In the off-season, the optimism of getting back defensive captains Troy Polamalu and DE Aaron Smith was cut down by the untimely suspension of QB Ben Roethlisberger for off-field indiscretions. Fans and critics alike were left wondering just how the Steelers would fare without their Pro-bowl signal caller under center.
The Steelers opted to start second year QB Dennis Dixon in Ben's absence. It wouldn't take long to see that with a traditional Steelers game-plan, the sky is the limit.
Week one pitted the Steelers against the offensively explosive Atlanta Falcons. The Steelers held them to a mere nine points and never let them into the end zone. Polamalu got a huge interception to stop the Falcons' last drive before they could get into field goal range for a chance to win in regulation, and Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall busted off a 50 yard TD run to win in overtime 15-9
The Steelers would have to battle the Tennessee Titans next, who had looked very impressive in rolling over the Oakland Raiders the week before. Titans star RB Chris Johnson was held to 34 rushing yards in the contest, and the Titans only made it into the end zone once in the contest. The Steelers won another close one 19-11.
Dennis Dixon was injured in the Titans game, and long time backup QB Charlie Batch would have to start in the Steelers' week three contest against the then undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The offense had been called into question already, and many feared this may be the week that the Steelers' luck would run out. Many were wrong.
The Steelers routed the Bucs in the most lopsided contest of the week, drumming them to the beat of 38-13. Batch only threw the ball 17 times, but he made them count completing 12 of them for 186 yards and three TDs. Mendenhall got in on the action with 143 yards and a TD of his own. Steelers WR Mike Wallace had his breakout game catching two of Batch's TD passes, and the Steelers defense put the icing on the cake by giving up a total of 303 yards and creating two turnovers.
The Steelers have one more game to play without Roethlisberger, and it's against their division rival Baltimore Ravens. At the very least, they'll be 3-1 going into the bye week when they get Ben back for their game against the Cleveland Browns—and there's no indication that they won't be 4-0.
The Steelers defense is ranked first in points allowed, third in rushing yards allowed, and first in turnovers created. Their looking like the team to beat in the AFC North if not in the entire NFL. Soon they'll be getting back one of the toughest QBs in the league. If everyone stays healthy, there's no reason to believe that they won't be in the thick of things come January.