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The white stuff: Bills-Jets game heading to Detroit

Tony Paul and Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Snow covers  a sign at Ralph Wilson Stadium,  home of the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Jim Schwartz will have a shot to go 2-0 at Ford Field a year after being fired as head coach of the Lions.

With more than 5 feet of snow falling in Buffalo, N.Y., since Monday and a whole lot more expected to pummel the area Friday, NFL officials announced Thursday the Bills-Jets scheduled for Sunday will not be played at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Instead, it will be played at 7 p.m. Monday at Ford Field, The News learned Thursday afternoon and the NFL later confirmed.

"We greatly appreciate the hospitality of the Detroit Lions," the NFL said in a statement.

Ticket details will be announced later, perhaps as early as Friday. The game will be televised on CBS in the New York and Buffalo markets.

The Bills plan to practice at the Lions' facility in Allen Park on Friday and Saturday, and have a walkthrough there Sunday.

"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."

Several cities — Toronto, Pittsburgh and Washington among them — were reported as candidates to host the game, but there were issues with all scenarios. Toronto posed a potential passport issue, Washington's FedExField has turf concerns, and Pittsburgh's Heinz Field is resodding its surface after three high-school games and a college game over the next two days.

Ford Field employees, meanwhile, were being told Thursday afternoon to be ready to work a "special event" on Monday.

There is a precedent for Detroit hosting an NFL game displaced by inclement weather.

On Dec. 13, 2010, the Vikings played the Giants at Ford Field after snow collapsed the roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis, forcing the two teams to play a Monday night game in Detroit. Tens of thousands of free tickets were given out for that game.

Moving the Bills-Jets game to Detroit, however, posed more challenges than the game from 2010, given the volume of upcoming activity at Ford Field. Although the Lions play at the Patriots in Foxboro, Massachusetts, on Sunday, they host the Bears on Thanksgiving Day.

Plus, the high-school football state finals are slated for Ford Field next Friday and Saturday.

But because Ford Field has artificial turf, it can handle the extreme load, unlike some other stadiums. In fact, Bills-Jets could've even been played Sunday, but given the Bills' inability to practice all week, the NFL granted the extra day.

Bills officials had hoped to host the game in Buffalo, even posting an Internet advertisement offering fans $10 an hour and free tickets if they come help dig the stadium out from the snow. But they quickly nixed that idea Thursday after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said trying to host the game "would jeopardize public safety."

Bills ownership vowed the team's next game, against the Browns, would be held in Buffalo as scheduled Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, Monday's game will mark another reunion for Schwartz, coach of the Lions the last five years who is now the Bills' defensive coordinator. When the Bills beat the Lions, 17-14, two Buffalo players carried Schwartz to midfield, much to the dismay of Detroit fans and some players.

Schwartz will be back in the Lions home locker room, while another ex-Detroit coach, Marty Mornhinweg, will be in the visitor's locker room as offensive coordinator of the Jets.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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Tami Normile and Richard Brooks attempt to remove some from a roof top Thursday in Buffalo, N.Y.