For most cord cutters one of the trickiest parts of getting rid of the cable is watching professional sports. Fortunately the National Football League is one of the easiest sports to watch without cable.
As with most sports broadcasts, there are a few hoops to jump through, but for the most part you should be able to watch the majority of your local team’s games throughout the NFL season.
In this post we’re going to show you how to watch NFL games without cable, we’ll take you step by step through what channels you’ll need and we’ll show you how to put it all together.
What Channels Do I Need To Watch The NFL?
The first thing we need to do is take a look at which channels the NFL airs its games each week. This way we know which networks we need before we subscribe to any streaming packages.
To watch the NFL you’ll need the following channels:
- CBS and FOX (Sunday regional games)
- NBC (Sunday Night Football)
- ESPN (Monday Night Football)
- NFL Network, FOX or Amazon Prime (Thursday Night Football)
Sunday Regional Games (CBS and FOX)
The majority of Sunday NFL games are broadcast for your regional team on either FOX or CBS. FOX broadcasts mostly NFC teams while CBS broadcasts mostly AFC teams. If you’re an NFL fan you’ll want to make sure you have these two channels since they broadcast the majority of games throughout the season.
Fortunately both of these channels are available regionally over the air in most markets so there is a good chance you can watch your local teams for free using just a HD antenna. We’ll discuss this more in a minute.
Sunday Night Football (NBC or Peacock)
NBC broadcasts every Sunday Night Football game this season. They will also be broadcasting the late game on Thanksgiving which features the Buffalo Bills and the New Orleans Saints. As with FOX and CBS, you may only need an HD antenna to watch these games as well.
Monday Night Football (ESPN)
Where watching the NFL without cable gets tricky is Monday (and Thursday) night football. Monday Night Football is broadcast exclusively on ESPN, which is of course a cable channel and is not available over the air like the Sunday games are. To watch MNF you’ll need access to ESPN via a streaming package, which we’ll discuss in more detail in a minute.
Fortunately not every team plays on Monday Night Football this season, so if your team does not have a MNF game you may be able to skip an ESPN subscription – assuming you don’t mind not watching Monday Night Football.
Thursday Night Football (NFL Network, FOX and Amazon Prime)
Thursday Night Football is by far the most confusing night to watch football as a cord cutter. NFL Network (a cable channel) will broadcast all Thursday Night Football games this season, but 11 of the 19 games will be available over the air on FOX or streaming via Amazon Prime as a simulcast.
Unlike Monday Night Football, every NFL team will play one Thursday night game so depending on which team you follow you may need access to NFL Network to watch your team’s TNF matchup that week. For a full list of Thursday Night games and broadcast schedule you can visit NFL.com’s Thursday Night Football page.
What Do I Need To Watch NFL Games Without Cable?
Now that we know how the NFL broadcasts its games each week we can start to figure out what we need to actually watch the games.
Over The Air Antenna
As mentioned earlier, one of the best things about NFL games is that the majority of Sunday games are available over the air, completely free in your local market. You just need to be sure you live in an area that can receive FOX, CBS and NBC over the air signal.
Most HD antennas do essentially the same thing and usually only cost around $20. They can be purchased at Amazon or found in the electronics department of most stores. Simply connect to your TV and place in or near a window.
If you’re looking for the best over the air signal you also have the option of getting an outdoor antenna, which should give you the clearest signal, however they are much more expensive and require a much more in depth installation.
Live Streaming Services
Unfortunately watching the NFL over the air has a couple drawbacks… most notably Monday Night Football (ESPN) and Thursday Night Football (NFL Network, depending on the week).
To watch these two nights of football you’ll need to subscribe to a live streaming service, which is essentially cable only cheaper and broadcast over the internet.
Most of these services can be watched on your TV using a Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, Smart TV or other streaming device. You can also watch on your phone, iPad, computer and gaming consoles, which is convenient if you’re on the go.
Let’s go through each service individually.
YouTube TV – $64.99 per month
YouTube TV offers all the channels you need to watch your local teams with a combination of local channels (in most areas) as well as both ESPN and NFL Network included in its base tier programming for $64.99 per month.
If you’re looking for even more NFL coverage YouTube TV also offers NFL RedZone as one of the channels in their Sports Plus package for an additional $10.99 per month.
Hulu With Live TV – $64.99 per month
Hulu with Live TV also offers local channels (in most areas) as well as ESPN and NFL Network for Monday and Thursday Night Football games for $64.99 per month.
Hulu also offers NFL RedZone in its Sports Add-on package for an additional $9.99 per month which is $1 cheaper than YouTube TV. It should be noted that Hulu’s sports plan does not include NBA and MLB Networks but if you’re a football fan only then save yourself an extra dollar a month.
fuboTV – $64.99 per Month
fuboTV, a streaming service that focuses primarily on sports programming offers local channels along with ESPN and NFL Network in their base package for $64.99 per month.
fuboTV also offers NFL RedZone for $10.99 per month in their Sports Plus with NFL RedZone package, which features a whopping 24 other sports channels along side RedZone.
Sling TV – $35 – $50 Per Month
The cheapest way we’ve found to watch all NFL games is Sling TV which offers both ESPN and NFL Network in their Sling Orange + Blue package for $50 per month. That said, Sling TV is a bit confusing and there are a few drawbacks.
Sling does NOT offer local channels so you’ll need an indoor antenna to watch your local CBS, FOX and NBC networks, and use Sling to watch ESPN and NFL Network.
If you don’t need NFL Network you also have the option of subscribing to Sling TV’s even cheaper Orange package which costs $35 per month and gives you access to the ESPN family of networks.
Sling TV also offers NFL RedZone for an additional $15 per month with their Orange + Blue package ($50/mo) or their Blue package ($35/mo) the latter of which unfortunately does not include ESPN.
Streaming Out Of Market Games – NFL Sunday Ticket
Unfortunately DirecTV has a contract with the NFL for exclusive rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket program, so in most cases you’ll need to subscribe to their satellite TV program.
That said, DirecTV does have an NFL Sunday Ticket streaming package, but it is only available to customers who meet a few criteria.
Option 1 – Satellite TV doesn’t work at your address
Since DirecTV relies on a satellite dish and a clear path to stream signal from the sky, it doesn’t work in all areas (think in a big city with tall buildings). If your address can be verified as an area where satellite TV does not work then DirecTV will let you stream Sunday Ticket. Unfortunately this does appear to be verified by them so it won’t work for everyone.
Option 2 – You are (or have recently been) a student
The other option to let you stream NFL Sunday Ticket is if you are currently a student, or have been a student within the last 18 months. DirecTV appears to use SheerID to verify student eligibility so be sure you actually are a student before trying this option.
Is NFL Game Pass available on DirecTV Streaming?
Unfortunately NFL Game Pass is not currently available on DirecTV Stream but we are hopeful that this will be an option in the near future as more and more customers get rid of cable and satellite in the future.