New England Patriots: Winners and Losers at the Season's Quarter Mark

Andrew McCluskeyCorrespondent IOctober 4, 2011

New England Patriots: Winners and Losers at the Season's Quarter Mark

0 of 6

    The New England Patriots improved their record to 3-1 last weekend by beating the Oakland Raiders

    They are still second in the AFC East because of Buffalo Bills, but they appear to be in good shape heading in to a Week 5 matchup with the New York Jets

    The Patriots defense has been less than impressive this season while the offense has been near unstoppable. Tom Brady is on pace for what would be the greatest statistical season ever played by an NFL quarterback.

    However, like with any team, there are ups and downs. 

    Here are the Patriots' biggest winners and losers so far this season.

Winner: Tom Brady

1 of 6

    This one is obvious. 

    Tom Brady is easily the biggest winner on the New England Patriots this season. 

    So far he has thrown for 1,553 passing yards and 13 touchdowns over four games. He has only thrown for five interceptions this year and four of those were all in the same game. 

    His play has been one of the only reason the Patriots are currently sitting at 3-1. 

    New England lives and dies with Tom Brady's arm. For now, he has been able to carry them to a winning record. 

    Hopefully the Pats can protect Brady and we can again label him as a winner at season's end.

Loser: Devin McCourty

2 of 6

    The Patriots came in to this season believing that they had a shutdown corner in Devin McCourty.

    However, it appears that McCourty may be suffering from a sophomore slump. He has been taken apart by Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson this season.

    While those are both incredibly difficult receivers to cover, as the No. 1 on the team you need to be able to step up and make some plays. 

    The Patriots secondary has been collectively awful this season. McCourty is going to need to accept that he is the face of it and will have the toughest assignments week in and week out. 

    New England is going to need McCourty to capture some of that rookie magic if they are going to be able to stop the elite NFL offenses. 

Winner: Wes Welker

3 of 6

    Wes Welker is another obvious winner.

    With Brady having as good of a season as he is, you can expect that his favorite target will be producing as well. Welker has returned to his pre-knee injury form after suffering a down year in 2010.

    Welker already has 40 catches for 616 yards and five touchdowns. 

    He is off to a ridiculous start and is clearly Brady's go-to target in all situations. Sunday against the Raiders, it looked as if Brady and Welker were the only two on the field. It is just how easy they make it look.

    Welker is on pace for 200 catches for 2,464 yards and 20 touchdowns. Those numbers are insane.

    Clearly Welker won't keep that up, but the fact that he is off to this monstrous start makes him a winner.

Loser: Chad Ochocinco

4 of 6

    There hasn't been a bigger disappointment on the New England Patriots this season than Chad Ochocinco. 

    He has only compiled seven catches for just 113 yards. These numbers are far from what they expected out of Ochocinco. 

    The biggest frustration with Ochocinco has been his inability to pick up the playbook. It is clear just from seeing his actions on the field that he has struggled to adapt to the Patriots' complicated playbook. 

    Belichick and Ochocinco have always had a strong relationship, but the questions are beginning to arise as to how long he will put up with the mistakes. 

    All Patriots fans would love to see Ochocinco turn it around, but if he doesn't he will continued to be labeled as a loser.

Winner: Rob Gronkowski

5 of 6

    Rob Gronkowski has continued to develop into one of the best tight ends in the NFL.

    Even though Tom Brady is known for spreading the ball around to multiple receivers, Gronk has still managed to grab 18 balls for 296 yards and five touchdowns. 

    Gronkowski has developed into more than just a red-zone threat this year as well. There have been several occasions where he has been able to stretch the field. 

    His massive size mixed with his freakish athleticism has made him one of Brady's go-to targets. It is easy when your receiver has over six inches on everyone trying to cover him. 

    Gronkowski is already halfway to his rookie touchdown total of 10. He will most likely pass that, but his current total of five makes him a winner for the first quarter of the year.

Loser: Shaun Ellis

6 of 6

    The Patriots brought in a number of new defensive linemen in hopes of improving their pass rush. 

    This includes former Jet Shaun Ellis. Ellis was offered the veteran minimum by his former team and clearly there was a reason. 

    He has been almost nonexistent thus far, amassing only three tackles and no sacks. The Patriots have been using a rotation on the line for the most part, but he has yet to make any impact plays.

    Even other additions like Andre Carter and Mark Anderson have at least done something for the Patriots defense this year. 

    Ellis is the kind of player the Patriots could really use to step up over the remaining three quarters of the season. New England has generated little to no pass rush this season, which has made it much easier for opposing quarterbacks to pick the weak secondary apart.

    If Ellis can't improve on his poor start his stint as Patriot will be easily forgettable.