ORCHARD PARK, NY — The Buffalo Bills’ home game against the Cleveland Browns is being relocated to Detroit due to a winter storm with lake effect snow that is expected to hit western New York over the next couple of days.
The game remains scheduled for 1 pm ET Sunday.
The Buffalo area is expected to get up to five feet of snow from Thursday night through Saturday night, with thunder and other inclement conditions also expected.
The team said the decision to move the game from Highmark Stadium was made “in consultation with the Buffalo Bills and local and state authorities as the region prepares for the storm.” The final decision came from the league office, but there has been communication with all parties involved.
Wind gusts are also expected to make traveling more difficult. It is not expected to be snowing during the actual time the game is scheduled to take place.
“The decision to move the game to Detroit has everything to do about safety,” Bill’s executive vice president and chief operating officer Ron Raccuia said. “Safety first has been what we’ve been talking about here, really for the last 48 to 72 hours.”
Moving the game was not finalized until Thursday afternoon, with the Bills practicing outside Thursday in anticipation of the game. The team did practice in its indoor fieldhouse Wednesday.
The Bills are planning to try to keep as normal a schedule as possible for an away game. They are aiming to practice Friday “if able,” per general manager Brandon Beane, and to fly to Detroit on Saturday. They are then planning to fly back Sunday after the game, if weather permits, and have a short practice week before heading back to Detroit to play the Lions on Thanksgiving.
“[Coach] Sean [McDermott] does a great job of messaging and making sure our guys understand it’s still going to be a football game,” Beane said. “Everything else is the same. It’s a short flight. We’re going to try to keep it as routine as possible. Is it a little disruption? Yes. But I think our guys are pros. They understand it.”
The team is planning to use the visitors side of everything in Ford Field so that it is the same when they return for the game four days later.
League spokesperson Brian McCarthy confirmed that the move had nothing to do with the Bills’ stadium being an outdoor facility without a dome and said the priority is that resources are not diverted from the community.
The decision was made in part to have resources available for other needs in the community and for the safety of people in the area and fans. The team had a major snow game in Orchard Park in 2017, and the Bills beat the Colts in overtime 13-7.
Buffalo had a home game vs. the New York Jets moved to Ford Field in November 2014 due to a snowstorm. The Bills won that game 38-3. That game was pushed back to Monday after being scheduled for a Sunday, but the Bills’ Thanksgiving game in Detroit makes the schedule this year less flexible.
With the news that the Browns-Bills game has been moved from Buffalo to Detroit, all previous bets made on the game are voided, per Caesars Sportsbook’s house rules.
The total, which moved from 47.5 to 42 (it had risen to 43 when the bets were voided) before the site change, attracted significant betting interest all week. The Browns-Bills under got more bets than any team to cover the spread besides Thursday night’s game between the Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers. It’s rare that totals attract more bets than the point spread.
With the game now in Detroit, Caesars Sportsbook is listing Buffalo as a 7.5-point favorite and the game has a total of 48.
Those with tickets to the game in Orchard Park will have their money reimbursed. New presale tickets for the game in Detroit will go on sale at 2 pm ET Friday for a cheaper price than normal game tickets with Bills season-ticket holders and fans getting first access.
“We are hoping for this to be still a home-field advantage away,” Beane said. “Luckily, it’s not across the country. We know Bill’s Mafia is all over, and hopefully those that are in the Michigan area will definitely come, and hopefully the ones here that want to get out of the snow will drive over there.”
Buffalo is also dealing with several illnesses on the team. Three players — defensive back Cam Lewis, wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips — missed Thursday’s practice with illnesses. Beane confirmed that the players are dealing with an illness other than COVID-19 and are expected to be back for the flight to Detroit.
With the loss of this week’s home game, the Bills will not play in Orchard Park again until Dec. 11 vs. the Jets.