Few sports remain as polarizing both on and off the field as the sport of American football. Though it’s continually bogged down by an array of constant criticism — i.e. lack of oversight, the (massive) concussion issue, 2014’s domestic violence problem, etc. — the NFL continues to chug along, making a pretty penny for players and owners alike. But you know what its greatest achievement is? Getting literally every TV set, cell phone, tablet, or otherwise, to tune in every Sunday morning from September to January. The NFL knows how addictive it is for fans. We certainly can’t look away.
The NFL’s popularity knows no boundaries, but the same can’t be said about the broadcasting of its games. Whether you’ve decided to forgo cable and join in on the budding cord-cutting revolution, live in an area that doesn’t show your favorite team’s games, or have some obstacle or another in your way, 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 on tap for the regular season and playoffs. So put on your favorite Tim Biakabutuka jersey and find a comfortable spot on the couch, here’s your (digital) front row ticket to the NFL.
After offering free streams of a few Thursday Night Football games during the 2014 NFL season, CBS decided it would offer an even larger selection of Thursday Night Football games this season. On tap to broadcast Thursday Night Football games from Week 2 to Week 8, CBS once again partnered with NFL Network to bring these regular season games to a wider range of fans. By visiting the CBS Sports website on the night of a game, you have free access to the exact cable broadcast they’d find on TV.
Once again this season, DirecTV offers people the option of buying NFL Sunday ticket subscriptions without having to build it into a separate TV subscription. Basically, you get all the perks of NFL Sunday Ticket without requiring the installation of a satellite. Everyone wins. The packages themselves come in three varieties: stream games to a computer, phone, or tablet ($200 for the season); stream games via a video game console ($260 for the season); and the last package combines the previous two options ($360 for the season). Moreover, the highest tier for Sunday Ticket also gives users the ability to tune into its Red Zone Channel, as well as its DirecTV Fantasy Zone.
While this 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, so this means users won’t have access to each week’s Thursday Night Football and Monday Night Football contests. However, DirecTV does offer special student pricing which costs just $25 per month for Sunday Ticket access, so if you’re a student — or just say you are — you’ll have the ability to score every Sunday football game for less.
Adding to the growing stable of television networks offering NFL streams this season is none other than Fox. NFL fans with a compatible cable subscription from such providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS, or Charter (among others), have access to 104 streamable football games this season. You need to visit Fox’s Fox Sports Go app, enter in the required subscription information, and then your desired football game appears. Unfortunately, this option only works on devices which stream to your television, meaning those who fancy streaming games on their phones will have to forgo this option altogether.
If you want to go straight to the source, the NFL Network offers access to streaming and RedZone, depending on your cable or satellite provider. RedZone is the best way to watch all the Sunday games at the same time, and will roll through when teams are close to making a scoring play, often splitting the screen between two games. If you’re a fantasy guru, this is a great way to stay on top of all your games, and you’ll never miss a touchdown. You need a service provider that allows the NFL Network (sorry Comcast users).
Beginning this year, NFL.com decided to offer a new streaming option called GamePass, though it isn’t as desirable as you’d imagine. For just $100 for the entire season, a GamePass subscription allows you the ability to stream any regular season game after it’s aired, and also gives access to rewatch any games played from 2009-2015. Obviously the biggest draw to watching the NFL is watching it unfold in real time, so this option doesn’t really offer much for football fanatics. But hey, options.
Sunday Night Football
Because NBC airs each Sunday Night Football game throughout the season — as well as a Thursday Night Football game on Thanksgiving — the network also streams the games online via NBCSports.com. Better, each game streamed on NBC’s website is free and doesn’t require any sort of paid cable subscription to view. Get used to Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels’ in-game banter, though. There’s going to be a lot of it.
Monday Night Football
WatchESPN is an online-only companion service that lets you stream live games — of any sport — which, in this case, means Monday Night Football. You must have a paid subscription to a compatible cable provider, but this doesn’t always mean you need to have a cable package that includes ESPN. Perhaps you know someone kind enough to “lend” their username and password tied to their cable account.
ESPN only holds the rights to air Monday Night Football games, so this won’t work for Sunday games. However, the WatchESPN app is available for phones and tablets, so you can catch Monday night’s action no matter where you are.
Subscribers to Dish Networks’ cord-cutting Sling TV get live access to a wide variety of channels, which includes ESPN. With access to ESPN’s live broadcasts, Slingers have the ability to stream Monday Night Football games each week and won’t have to shell out any more dough than the $20 per month they already spend.
Questionable streaming sites
Keep in mind that most of the illegal streaming options available come loaded with unwanted spam and a barrage of pop-up windows. Leaning on such links can be frustrating, particularly when it comes to finding quality video and audio feeds with little buffering.
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However, you must also keep in mind many of these sites illegally broadcast the content, and your computer is at a high risk of malware when using them. Nevertheless, you’ll notice the deep selection of links available to you once you find an adequate streaming site on the Web. Notorious sites — though technically legal given they only provide links to various broadcast streams instead of broadcasting the copyrighted content — fall upon the gray areas of the law.
Note: As a rule of thumb, never click on any link which asks you to download any HD Players, update your streaming software, or to install any “required” media players. These are often just spam links that could infect your computer with viruses.
An incredible resource for information about almost anything, Reddit has more than enough NFL information each week to satisfy any fan of the sport. Reddit’s loyal user base generates the site’s wealth of content, which is both a blessing and a curse. You’ll find heaps of NFL-themed pictures, videos, and even alternative streaming sites during game days.
Though not a video option, ESPN offers its signature play-by-play Gamecast presentation for each NFL game during every week of the season. Simply head over to the NFL scoreboard page via ESPN’s website, click your desired game, and a Gamecast window opens. This feature shows real-time events including completed passes, penalties, interceptions, or long TD runs. Gamecast also lists each team’s stats, every game’s box score, and gives you access to all social media activity pertaining to the day’s games.