Josh Allen duels idol Aaron Rodgers in high-stakes opener

Even as quarterbacks are driving primary plot lines for the “Monday Night Football” opener, don’t rule out Sauce becoming more than a side dish when the New York Jets welcome the Buffalo Bills for the high-stakes Week 1 finale.Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner, a rare All-Pro selection at cornerback in his first season, and the Jets’ defense are positioned to be headliners and already have an established track record of mortalizing Bills quarterback Josh Allen.”They’re a pretty good group — really good group for that matter,” Allen said. “They’ve got rushers that have motors, they sub those guys in and out so they’re fresh. Their DBs are smart. They game-planned pretty well for us the last couple times we’ve played them and we’ll have our hands full come Monday night.”Gardner made sure Allen’s favorite target, wide receiver Stefon Diggs, didn’t have his hands full in their two matchups in 2022. Allen had 147 passing yards in the Bills’ 20-12 win on Dec. 11 — when Diggs was held to three receptions for 37 yards — and New York’s defense sacked him eight times with two picks in those two games. Allen had three rushing TDs.In the Nov. 6 meeting, Gardner intercepted Allen and broke up a late pass on fourth-and-21 that ended Buffalo’s final drive and preserved the Jets’ 20-17 win.Diggs said the Bills are geared up to turn the page and test themselves against a rising AFC East challenger.”That first game, I feel like it’s also finding yourself, what kind of team you’ve got, figuring out your identity,” Diggs said.Allen was 9 years old when Aaron Rodgers was drafted by Green Bay. Allen said he’s mimicked a lot of Rodgers’ movements and looks up to him. Rodgers wants the Bills looking up at the Jets in the standings when the dust settles Monday.At 39, Rodgers relocated for the first time in his career following a prolific run with the Packers. Unpacking Super Bowl and MVP credentials in New Jersey, Rodgers said he’s grown comfortable in a new shade of green in part because of the level of talent around him.