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NFL shifts Bills’ game vs. Browns to Detroit due to storm

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/buffalo-bills-cleveland-browns-nfl-sports-weather-1d40527dddde7fcc582937f8b36a069a

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Mother Nature is forcing the Buffalo Bills to shuffle off to the Motor City.

The NFL decided Thursday to shift the Bills’ home game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday to Detroit’s Ford Field because of travel and safety concerns stemming from a lake-effect snowstorm set to hit the Buffalo region.

The move to relocate the game came before the storm even began. The forecast calls for 1 to 3 feet of snow to fall through the weekend. The switch in sites means the Bills will play back-to-back games in Detroit, one as the home team and then as visitors when they face the Lions on Thanksgiving.

To maintain continuity, Bills general manager Brandon 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 during a Zoom call. “The only thing we want from the home-team standpoint this week is the fans.”

Beane then cracked a joke when asked about the price of tickets, which will go on sale Friday.

“They’re much less expensive,” he said, before adding with a laugh, “unless you’re a Cleveland Browns fan.”

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.

The National Weather Service issued a lake-effect storm warning lasting through Saturday morning for southern Erie County, which includes the Bills’ home in Orchard Park. The storm is projected to bring wind gusts off Lake Erie as high as 35 mph, which would make travel conditions hazardous and lead to potential power outages.

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,” said Ron Raccuia, executive vice president of the Bills’ parent company, Pegula Sports and Entertainment.

This isn’t the first time weather has forced the Bills to relocate to Detroit.

Another snowstorm led to them making a similar trip to Ford Field in November 2014, when the Bills defeated the New York Jets 38-3. That game was also pushed back a day to accommodate travel for both teams. The Bills arranged for snowmobiles to pick up some players who were unable to dig their cars out of the snow in order to get them to the airport.

This time, the NFL couldn’t push back the date of the game because Buffalo is already facing a short week.

The Bills plan to make the 45-minute flight to Detroit on Saturday, as they would on a normal trip, and return home immediately after the game.

The Browns also plan to travel on Saturday, and prepared for the possibility of a venue switch by putting together two offensive game plans: one outdoor, one indoor.

“We will be ready for both,” offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. “That’s one thing that COVID years have done for us, we are very flexible and used to adapting and adjusting to any circumstances that come up.”

With the potential for playing in wind and blowing snow, Cleveland was set to rely on its running game with Nick Chubb getting enough carries to even satisfy those Browns fans who criticize coach Kevin Stefanski for not giving the ball to his star back on every play.

Now, a game inside Detroit’s warm and cozy dome will allow the Browns to use their complete playbook.

Trouble is, so will the Bills. Led by quarterback Josh Allen, Buffalo has a distinct advantage over a Cleveland defense that hasn’t delivered all season.

Beane said the Bills were planning to play at home, and even practiced outdoors on Thursday, until the decision was made to move the game. He said the change in location shouldn’t affect the game plan.

Players on both teams were looking forward to competing in the wintry elements.

“I would love it,” Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio said. “But obviously people’s safety and the city of Buffalo. But it would be great. I grew up in California and didn’t see snow much. I was in college at Nevada, which gets snow.”

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.”

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AP Sports Writer Tom Withers contributed to this report from Berea, Ohio.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Source: https://apnews.com/article/buffalo-bills-cleveland-browns-nfl-sports-weather-1d40527dddde7fcc582937f8b36a069a

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Report: NWSL to expand in Boston, Utah and California

The National Women’s Soccer League is close to expanding by three teams, which will be in Boston, Utah and the San Francisco area, according to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The women’s pro league previously indicated it would add at least two teams by 2024. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the franchises in northern California and Utah are set to start play next year, with Boston to join at a later date.

The NWSL did not confirm the report in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press, saying: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

The NWSL has 12 teams, after Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Boston and Bay Area groups will pay about $50 million in franchise fees. The Utah team will pay a reduced fee because of a previous agreement struck when the Utah Royals folded in the 2020 season.

Before the NWSL draft earlier this month, league commissioner Jessica Berman said it would be “somewhere between days and months, more like weeks, when we’ll be in a position to share information” about an expansion.

“What I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” she added.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.

She posted on Instagram that Chicago would always be her home, but “my family’s home is on the west coast.

“To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”

The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday, and the Aces can’t comment until then.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, adds to an already loaded lineup that includes reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, who also won the league’s top award in 2020. Wilson also was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chelsea Gray was MVP of the WNBA Finals and Kelsey Plum MVP of the All-Star Game. Wilson, Plum and Jackie Young were All-Star starters.

Parker and Gray were teammates on Los Angeles’ 2016 title team.

The Aces traded one of their key pieces, two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, to the Sparks on Jan. 21, creating speculation Las Vegas was creating salary cap room to sign a big-name player.

Parker, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2016 Finals MVP, certainly fits that bill. Even at 36 last season, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Sky.

“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Chicago coach and general manager James Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”

Losing her is a big blow to the Sky, who made the semifinals in last season’s playoffs before losing in five games to the Connecticut Sun. Kahleah Copper is the only starter under contract for next season, so the Sky could head into a rebuild.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball,” Parker posted.

Parker joins the Aces at a time the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it wanted that organization investigated regarding allegations that Hamby made after being traded. She posted on Instagram she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child.

The Aces still have not commented on Hamby’s allegations.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak.

Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off No. 18 College of Charleston 85-81 on Saturday — ending the Cougars’ 20-game win streak.

“That’s a really big for our program,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “To beat a nationally ranked team on their home court when they’ve got it rolling like they do speaks volumes about our kids.”

Claxton saw a team effort to take down the hottest team in the country.

“It wasn’t just Aaron,” Claxton said. “He had a great first half, but we had other guys step up and make baskets or get rebounds when we really needed them.”

The loss ended Charleston’s spotless run that began after losing to then-top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 11.

Hofstra, the CAA’s leader in field-goal shooting, used that to move past Charleston in the second half as it made 18 of 32 attempts. The Pride led 76-69 with 6:10 to play before the Cougars cut it to two points on Ryan Larson’s foul shots with 2:02 to play.

But Charleston managed just two free throws after that and missed all four 3-pointers they tried.

This is the second straight season the Pride have beaten a Top 25 team. A year ago, Hofstra defeated then No. 24 Arkansas 89-81. The Pride’s only other victory against a Top 25 team came against Southern Illinois in 1976.

Hofstra (15-8, 8-2 Colonial Athletic Association) beat the Cougars (21-2, 9-1) at their own game — 3-point shooting. The Pride were 11 of 22 from 3-point range and overall shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half.

Estrada, who had 23 points in the opening half, shredded the Cougars defense at will. Estrada was 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

“Estrada is a great player, hit a bunch of tough shots, especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Hofstra is a very, very talented team. It’s not just Estrada. They were better than us tonight.”

Then Estrada took over. The CAA’s leading scorer at 21.1 points a game scored 16 of the next 24 points for the Pride, including four 3-pointers.

Ante Brzovic’s dunk at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 46-44 advantage at halftime.

Tyler Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds for Hofstra.

Brzovic finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride are on a roll in 2023. winning seven of their past eight games, including three in a row.

College of Charleston: The Cougars chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament at-large bid took a major blow with the loss to the Pride. Despite having the nation’s longest win streak for three months, Charleston will most likely have to win the CAA Tournament in March to advance to the NCAAs.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Cougars’ 20-game win streak wasn’t the only streak to end on Saturday. College of Charleston played 14 of its first 23 games at TD Arena to start the season and were a perfect 13-0 at home before facing the Pride. Charleston’s 13-game home win streak included three wins in the Charleston Classic. The Cougars became the first mid-major program to win the ESPN event, beating Virginia Tech 77-75 in the championship game. Charleston will finish the season playing four of their final eight games on the road.

POLL POSITION

Charleston’s first loss in nearly three months might drop the Cougars from the national rankings. They have been part of the last four rankings, entering at No. 23 before reaching No. 18 this past week.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to play Towson on Thursday night.

College of Charleston starts a two-game road trip at Drexel on Thursday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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