By Abraham Gutierrez

The New York Jets closed out the first quarter of the season with a 3-1 record, which is good enough for the franchise’s best start in half a decade. Nevertheless, heading into the bye week this early in a season could really test a ballclub, especially considering injuries are a part of life in the National Football League. Thus, first-year head coach Todd Bowles needs to avoid taking unnecessary risks with player personnel, especially since there are three key guys on this roster that appear to be injury prone.

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If the NFL playoffs started today, the Jets would clinch the fourth seed in the American Football Conference below the (4-0) Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals, and just beneath the defending Super Bowl champion (3-0) New England Patriots. However, Gang Green isn’t going anywhere unless the following three players are able to contribute as the season wears on: lockdown cornerbacks, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, and bruising running back Chris Ivory.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie

Entering his 10th year in the league, Cromartie’s name has been penciled in on the team’s injury report every week leading into the bye. In Weeks 1 and 4, the former FSU standout missed practice time due to a hip injury, while a balking knee slowed him down in Weeks 2 and 3.

It’s certainly worth noting that the four-time Pro Bowler hasn’t missed a single game in nine-plus years due to injury. Nevertheless, he’s not getting any younger, and missing him for any significant amount of time could really put a damper on the Jets’ 2015 NFL playoff hopes.

Luckily, the 2007 NFL Defensive Back Of The Year and interceptions leader is older and wiser, as he appears to have learned from past experiences. However, it’s still up to Bowles to continue treating the 31-year-old from Tallahassee, Florida with kid gloves. Cromartie is currently ninth on the team in tackles (6), but has yet to record a pick or a sack through four games.

“I’m learning my lesson from 2013, when I probably should’ve sat out a couple of weeks with my hip injury,” Cromartie said prior to the Jets’ Monday night game against Indianapolis in Week 3. “You take a lot of pride in [the streak], and you want to go out and start and not miss a game. But, me being a 10-year corner, you have to think a little smarter about what you’re doing.”

Corberback Darrelle Revis

Guarding the opposite side of the field is a man who’s the proud owner of an island no one wants to visit. Entering his ninth NFL season, Darrelle Revis is the heart and soul of this defense, but is also a high-risk player, and one the Jets simply cannot afford to miss. Unlike Cromartie, the 30-year-old has only had his named called twice in this year’s injury reports.

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The six-time Pro Bowler started the season off healthy, but a groin injury caused him to miss practice time in Week 2, while a “hammy” landed him on the Jets IR prior to the Dolphins game in London last week.

Revis is currently tied for team-high honors with two interceptions this season, including a timely (endzone) pick on Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, putting to an end Miami’s hopes of a rally at Wembley Stadium.

“We were very disappointed about last week’s game against Philly, and we felt as a team that we didn’t play up to our standards,” Revis said following Gang Green’s 27-14 win over the rival Dolphins. “Coming here to London, we wanted to make a statement and go out there and play the ball that we usually play – that’s great ball.”

Star running back Chris Ivory

Last, but certainly not least, Bowles must take precautions to ensure rising-star (halfback) Chris Ivory stays healthy, as he’s the focal point of the offense. How important is Ivory to the Jets’ success following the first quarter of the 2015 NFL season?

As hard as it is to fathom, the 27-year-old from Longview, Texas, single-handedly put an end the quarterback controversy by bringing back some old school, smash-mouth football to the Big Apple… that’s how important he is.

“His gamespeed is just unbelievable,” said Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall in regards to his running back’s play. “He runs the ball violently and the guy’s a stud. Like I said from preseason, he makes everything go for us.”

Not only is the running back position the toughest in the NFL, as far as punishment goes, but Ivory’s bruising style also makes him very susceptible to injuries. That’s why Jets fans were holding their collective breath when the sixth-year man out of Tiffin University was still on the field with the game well in hand against the Dolphins, even after posting a career-high 166 yards on 29 carries and a score.

As many may recall, Ivory was forced to sit out the Jets only loss of the season, as he was nursing a quadricep injury when the Philadelphia Eagles went into MetLife Stadium and handed the home team a 17-24 defeat. Even after missing a whole game, Ivory went into the Jets bye week as the NFL’s fourth leading rusher in 2015 – behind Adrian Peterson (372), Matt Forte (367) and Frank Gore (325) – with 314 rushing yards on 63 carries and three touchdowns on his ledger.

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Abe Gutierrez’s (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to, and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers),, and other online publications.