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 how to watch NFL games online, 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.
CBS, NBC, NFL Network, and Amazon Prime
Once again the Thursday Night Football schedule has been turned upside down. Last year it was Twitter playing the surprising black sheep in the NFL streaming game. This season, Amazon took the mantle and paid $50 million to stream 10 Thursday night football games and one Christmas game through Amazon Prime Video. Below is a list of all the TNF games scheduled on traditional networks — available to most viewers with an HD antenna — which will also broadcast on Amazon.
|9/28: Bears at Packers||11/9: Seahawks at Cardinals|
|10/05: Patriots at Buccaneers||11/16: Titans at Steelers|
|10/12: Eagles at Panthers||11/30: Redskins at Cowboys|
|10/19: Chiefs at Raiders||12/7: Saints at Falcons|
|10/26: Dolphins at Ravens||12/14: Broncos at Colts|
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.
If you live in an area or apartment complex that can’t access DirecTV, you can buy the company’s robust NFL Sunday ticket subscription without having to buy into any of its TV packages. The standard streaming package — which currently costs $70 a month under a four-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 $95 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.
DirecTV knows that cord cutting will be the new norm for watching tv sooner than later, so the company’s trying to get in on the online action by offering DirecTV Now. For $35 a month, you get access to more than 60 channels, including Monday Night Football on ESPN. If you’re lucky, you might also be able to to watch live Sunday football on CBS and Fox, and Thursday games on CBS and NBC. Don’t get your hopes up though, as live local channels are only offered to a select group of cities. You also can’t DVR games, and you won’t have access to the NFL Network, but that might change soon.
If you’re already paying a hefty Verizon bill every month, than all of these prices to watch football can seem intimidating. But believe it or not, that bill comes with some perks, like live stream access to every regular season and playoff game, as well as the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl. All you have to do to access hundreds of dollars worth of content for free is have a Verizon account and download the NFL Mobile App. If you never want to miss a Sunday touchdown, you can also pay a one-time $2 in-app purchase to get NFL Redzone too.
If you already have Verizon, this is by far the best NFL deal available, especially if you’re able to stream your tablet or smartphone to your TV.
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 $100, 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.
It’s currently available in only select cities, but if you’re lucky enough to live in one of those areas, then you might want to take a look at YouTube TV. For $35 a month you’re guaranteed to have CBS, NBC, and Fox, so you’ll be able to get your Sunday afternoon, Sunday night, and Thursday night football fix every week week of the season. It also comes with Monday Night Football on ESPN, but no NFL Network.
PlayStation Vue — which isn’t limited to PlayStation owners despite the name — offers four subscription levels: Access, Core, Elite, and Ultra. Customers who choose Core for a maximum price of $45 per month will receive NFL Network as part of their package, meaning every live broadcast of a Thursday game, as well as a few Monday, Saturday, and Sunday broadcasts. You can also get local broadcasts of games too, depending on where you live.
Users can upgrade to The Sports Pack which comes with NFL RedZone for $10 a month. Vue also includes DVR recording capabilities, and is available to stream via apps on Amazon Fire TV devices, iOS, Android, and Roku devices.
If you’re not committed to a Fantasy team or are only a casual football fan, CBS All Access might work for you. For six bucks a month you get live access to all of CBS’ Thursday games as well AFC games on Sundays. This is the cheapest subscription on the list, but that’s because you’re missing more games than you get. Still, if you’re looking to tip toe your way into football fandom, All Access is a decent starting point.
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. With Sling Orange, you can watch Monday night games on ESPN for $20 a month. The main restriction there is you can only stream from one device at a time — and there’s no NFL Network, or option to purchase NFL Redzone. For $25 a month, Sling Blue users get access to NFL Network, and the ability to stream to multiple devices, as well as possibly watching games on NBC and Fox, depending on where you live, but for some reason, you don’t get access to ESPN. You can however purchase the Sports Extra package for $10 a month and have NFL Redzone. Yes it’s convoluted, but that’s where we are now.
If 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.
Hulu’s live tv subscription is less than a year old, but it’s already proving to be a favorite for a lot of cord-cutters. At $40 a month, you get access to Monday Night Football on ESPN, Sunday Night Football on NBC, and other nationally broadcasted games throughout the week on CBS and Fox. Like most other online subscriptions, your locally televised games may or may not air, depending on where you live. You also don’t have access to the NFL Network, and if you want to DVR a game you have to pay an extra $15 a month to fast-foward commercials.