The Bills will face the Cleveland Browns at 1 p.m. Sunday at Detroit’s Ford Field, with television coverage remaining on CBS. The NFL made the decision out of safety concerns, and in consultation with the Bills and local and state officials.
“The decision to move the game has everything to do with safety,” said Ron Raccuia, executive vice president of Bills parent company Pegula Sports and Entertainment. “Our sole concern was the safety of our fans, team, and community and making sure we did not divert any resources that the community will need coming this weekend.”
The National Weather Service has issued a lake-effect storm warning lasting through Saturday morning for southern Erie County, which includes the Bills stadium in Orchard Park. The storm is projected to bring wind gusts off Lake Erie as high as 35 mph, which will make travel conditions hazardous and lead to potential power outages. Some areas could receive two feet of snow or more.
Tickets for the game in Detroit will go on pre-sale at 2 p.m. Friday and Bills season ticket-holders will have preference. Bills general manager Brandon Beane said they will cost “way less” than a normal NFL game. Fans with tickets to the game in Buffalo will be refunded and there will not be an option to transfer that ticket to the Detroit game.
The Bills plan on traveling to Detroit on Saturday and returning to Buffalo after the Browns game, Beane said. They will return to Detroit on Thanksgiving to play the Lions.
To maintain continuity, Beane said the team has chosen to use the visitors’ locker room, sideline and coaching booths for both trips.
“It’s the home team’s choice, really, and we’re the home team,” Beane said. “The only thing we want from the home-team standpoint this week is the fans.”
The Bills (6-3) have lost two straight and will now play 10 “road” games — instead of nine — in the second year of the NFL’s 17-game schedule. The Browns (3-6) have lost four of five.
Two teams that share a wintry climate and a Lake Erie shoreline will instead play indoors after the NFL — with input from the Bills and New York state officials — was left with little choice but to shift the game.
Though Sunday’s forecast calls for light snow and gusting winds — playable conditions — the Bills and safety officials made clear to the NFL they didn’t want to draw resources away from what’s expected to be a major cleanup effort.
“At the end of the day, the safety of this community comes first, not playing a football game,” Raccuia said.
The Browns and Bills played a memorable snow game in Cleveland in 2007. Aiming for the goal line pylons in blizzard-level winds, Browns kicker Phil Dawson somehow made two field goals and the Bills snapped the ball into the end zone for a safety in Cleveland’s 8-0 win.
This isn’t the first time weather has forced the Bills to relocate to Detroit.
The Bills had a home game moved because of a snowstorm in November 2014, when they defeated the New York Jets 38-3 at Ford Field. The game was pushed back to Monday to take into account both teams traveling.
This time, the NFL would have difficulty pushing back the date of the game because Buffalo is already facing a short week.
The Bills last played through a lake-effect storm in December 2017, when they defeated the Indianapolis Colts 13-7 in overtime in a game played in near white-out conditions. The storm didn’t hit until about an hour before kickoff.
“It was surreal. You come in the tunnel the grass is green, when you come back out it’s two feet of snow,” Bills safety Jordan Poyer said. “It was probably one of the most fun games I ever played in, so hopefully we’ll make some more memories this week.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.