Update: Tickets for Monday's game can be had for free. Season-ticket holders for the Bills and Lions have received offers for free tickets through email, while the general public can purchase tickets online, starting at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday.
After a devastating snowstorm left Buffalo covered in seven feet of snow, the NFL was forced to move Sunday’s scheduled game between the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. Having little time to make a decision, the league has shifted the contest 267 miles to a stadium that has experience in such situations.
The Bills and Jets will play at 7 pm ET on Monday night at Detroit’s Ford Field. The AFC East contest was originally set for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff on Sunday at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The NFL made an official announcement on Thursday, a day after the Bills offered fans $10 and hour and tickets to the game for helping shovel snow in the stadium. However, after even more snow covered the venue, the league and the organization quickly realized that getting rid of 220,000 tons of snow and playing in Buffalo was not a realistic option.
"We are pleased to be hosting the Bills and Jets for their game Monday night," Lions president Tom Lewand said in a statement. "While our thoughts are with the people of the Buffalo area during this difficult time, our team at Ford Field will do everything we can to be good hosts to their team this weekend."
Detroit isn’t the ideal location, considering it leaves both teams having to travel a long distance, but it appears to be the best option. A decision needed to be made quickly, because the Bills have been unable to practice for the last two days.
Toronto might have appeared to be the best option, considering the Bills have played home games at Rogers Centre in recent years and it’s just a two-hour drive away from Ralph Wilson Stadium. However, Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 in Buffalo told TSN 1200 in Ottawa that the city was likely never a “real consideration of the NFL.” Buffalo’s new ownership group is looking to get out of the team’s agreement to play one regular-season game each year in Toronto through the 2017 season, and Rogers Centre might not be ready to host a football game on such short notice.
The game could’ve been played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, but that would have given the Jets two home games against the Bills this season. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina forced the New Orleans Saints to play what was supposed to be their home opener in East Rutherford against the Giants. The Saints lost by 17 points, and essentially played one extra road game that season.
Even though the game is still three days away, the Bills need to get out of the Buffalo area as soon as possible. The team is hoping to arrive in Detroit in time for practice at 7:15 p.m. ET on Friday at the Lions’ facility.
It might not be so easy for the Bills’ players to even exit the city. Peter King of Sports Illustrated reports that 85 percent of the roster lives in areas that have gotten between five and seven feet of snow, and some players might need snowmobiles to escort them to the city’s main roads. Buffalo CEO Russ Brandon told King that it’s not realistic to think the entire roster will be able to make the trip to Detroit on Friday. Players who are unable to leave with the team on Friday afternoon will be forced to fly commercial on Friday or Saturday.
Because NFL games are played outdoors and so late in the year, complications like this are not uncommon. In the last four years, multiple games have been postponed because of issues relating to weather.
The New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings faced a similar situation in Dec. 2010 when a snowstorm forced the Metrodome roof to collapse on the morning of their scheduled Sunday afternoon game. The contest was instead played on Monday night at Ford Field, seen by 45,910 fans who received free tickets.
Two weeks later, the Vikings faced another postponement, but this time for a road game. The NFL changed the game between the Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles from Sunday to Tuesday, because of the prospect of a blizzard. The contest was not moved from Lincoln Financial Field.
Playing a game at neutral site could hurt the Bills’ postseason chance, as they are in the middle of a playoff race and will lose a game that was supposed to be played in front of a home crowd that usually approaches 70,000 fans. Buffalo will also be impacted off the field, losing a significant amount of gate revenue. Considering the Bills average attendance is 69,069 and the average cost of a ticket is $62.01, Buffalo could lose over $4 million in ticket sales.
Bills' season ticket holders had their accounts credited for this weekend’s game, and fans who bought single-game tickets will be given refunds. Season-ticket holders also have the option of asking for a refund.
The game will begin just an hour before the start of "Monday Night Football," but it won't be televised nationally. It will be broadcast by local New York and Buffalo TV markets on CBS.
There’s a chance Buffalo will have to address the same issue next week. The team is scheduled to host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Nov. 30. The Lions will play at Ford Field on Thanksgiving, so playing in Detroit for a second straight week might not be a problem.
Ticket information for Monday's game has yet to be released.