While the NFL’s ratings are down this year, it remains the most watched sport in America. Fans across the country (and the world) come together from Thursday through Monday to watch some of the best athletes on the planet compete between the pylons. But nothing ruins a perfectly good game day faster than the realization that you don’t have the means to watch your favorite team knock some heads.
Whether you’ve decided to forgo cable and join in on the cord-cutting revolution, or you live in an area that doesn’t show your favorite team’s games, it’s not always easy to get your NFL fix. To help, we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide on where to stream all the NFL action for both the regular season and playoffs. So put on your favorite jersey and find a comfortable spot on the couch; here’s your (digital) ticket to the NFL.
Options that don’t require a cable subscription
CBS Sports, NBC Sports, NFL Network, and Twitter
This year, the Thursday Night Football schedule has been turned upside down. CBS, NBC, and NFL Network all share the rights to Thursday games. After networks offered free streams of a few Thursday Night Football games during the 2015 NFL season, the NFL decided to offer an even larger selection of Thursday Night Football through its new experimental partner, Twitter. Visit the website on select Thursdays to check out the action, completely free of charge! Below is a list of all the TNF games scheduled on traditional networks, which will also be broadcast on Twitter.
|9/15: Jets at Bills||11/17: Saints at Packers|
|9/22: Texans at Patriots||12/1: Cowboys at Vikings|
|10/6: Cardinals at 49ers||12/8: Raiders at Chiefs|
|10/13: Broncos at Chargers||12/15: Rams at Seahawks|
|10/20: Bears at Packers||12/22: Giants at Eagles|
All Thursday Night Football games will also be simulcast on NFL Network, but not all the games are available in one place. In an effort to totally confuse us, some games have been relegated to NFL Network alone. The full TNF schedule is available here, including games that are available only through NFL Network.
Once again this year, DirecTV offers the option of buying an NFL Sunday ticket subscription without having to buy into a robust TV package. The standard streaming package — which currently costs $50 a month under a three-month promotional period — allows you to stream out-of-market games on your computer, smartphone, game console, or smart TV. Unfortunately, if you want the coveted RedZone channel, the commercial-free wonder which focuses exclusively on teams about to score, you’ll have to jump up to the new Sunday Ticket MAX package (starting at $83 a month). Along with RedZone, Max also includes the NFL Fantasy Zone channel, which streams every Sunday with “live look-ins” and fantasy football analysis.
While this option represents one of the most comprehensive ways to watch the NFL this season, it does come with a few caveats. First, Sunday Ticket only grants users the ability to watch games on Sunday, without access to Sunday night, Thursday night, or Monday night contests. Local games are also subject to blackout, which means DirecTV is “restricted from showing events near where a game is played or broadcast locally.”
DirecTV does offer special student pricing, though, which costs just $25 per month for Sunday Ticket access for those who qualify. So if you’re a student, you’ll have the ability to score every Sunday football game for less than half the price.
Starting in 2015, NFL.com decided to offer a new streaming option called GamePass, though it isn’t as desirable as you might think. For $75, a GamePass subscription allows you to stream any regular season game after it’s aired, and lets you rewatch games going back to 2009. Obviously the biggest draw to watching sports is watching the game unfold in real time, so this option doesn’t really offer much for most fans. But GamePass is a great choice for fans who can’t watch games live, or just students of the game.
In March, Sony’s alternative to cable TV, PlayStation Vue, went nationwide. The service — which isn’t limited to PlayStation owners, despite the name — offers four subscription levels: Access, Core, Elite, and Ultra. Customers who choose Core or above will receive NFL Network as part of their package, at no additional cost.
Users can then upgrade to NFL RedZone for the entire season by paying a one-time $40 fee. Vue also includes DVR recording capabilities, and is available to stream via apps on Amazon Fire TV devices, iOS, Android, and Roku devices.
Sunday Night Football
NBC airs Sunday Night Football games throughout the regular season — as well as a Thursday Night Football game on Thanksgiving — and the network also streams the games online via NBCSports.com. Each game streamed on NBC’s website is free and doesn’t require any sort of paid cable subscription to view. This is one of the best ways to get a free fix, and a surprising addition from a traditional network in the modern NFL era.
Subscribers to Dish Networks’ Sling TV get live access to a wide variety of channels, including options for ESPN and NFL Network — but like a lot of relationships online, it’s complicated. Sling now has two options, including Sling Orange, with access to ESPN for $20, and Sling Blue, with access to NFL Network for $25 per month. With access to ESPN’s live broadcasts, Orange Slingers have the ability to stream Monday Night Football games each week. The main restriction there is you can only stream from one device at a time — and there’s no NFL Network. Blue Slingers get access to NFL Network, and the ability to stream to multiple devices, but there’s no ESPN. Yes it’s convoluted, but that’s where we are now.
In addition, NFL RedZone can be added to Sling Blue’s Sports Extra package for and extra $5 month — but don’t expect RedZone to show up if you add Sports Extra to your Sling Orange account.
If, however, you want the best of both worlds, you can plunk down $40 for both Sling Blue and Orange, and an extra $5 for Sports Extra. For those counting, that’s $45 per month, plus your internet subscription, making it close to many cable packages. But it is an option. Below are the devices you can use to connect.
|Apple iPad||Xbox One|
|Apple iPhone||Roku (LT or higher)|
|Apple iPod Touch||Amazon Fire TV|
|Android phones||Android tablets|
|Mac OS (10.7 or higher)||Chromecast|
|Apple TV (4th gen)||Windows (7 or higher)|