How to Watch NFL Without Cable
NFL Online, OTA, & on Your Mobile Device
Watching football without a cable TV subscription has never been easier. With a multitude of solutions including: OTA Antennas, Amazon Prime, NFL Mobile from Verizon, DirecTV Now, Sling TV and several more; there is no longer a reason to pay the high price of cable TV.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year; the summer heat is slowly gaining, and NFL football has finally returned. For the cord cutting sports fan, it has never been easier to watch your favorite team without having to buy into some expensive package from the cable companies.
To make sure you don’t miss a game this season, here’s how you can watch the NFL without cable.
Oh ya – I dont just have 5 ways to watch football without cable, I have 11!! Sorry if you were expecting the bare minimum.
NFL TV Schedule
The first thing you need to know is what channels the NFL airs on, and how it changes based on the day of the week.
See the complete NFL schedule here.
- Sunday Football is on ABC, CBS, and FOX. Plus you have the NFL RedZone channel, which offers nonstop coverage of every red zone drive in real time.
- Monday Night Football airs exclusively on ESPN
- Thursday Night Football airs on a few different channels, depending on the week (NFL Network, CBS, NBC, & Amazon Prime). Check out a complete Thursday Night Football TV schedule below.
Thursday Night Football TV Schedule
- Sept. 14 – Texans vs. Bengals (NFL Network)
- Sept. 21 – Rams vs. 49ers (NFL Network)
- Oct. 28 – Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers (NFL Network, CBS, Amazon Prime)
- Oct. 05 – New England Patriots vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL Network, CBS, Amazon Prime)
- Oct. 12 – Philadelphia Eagles vs. Carolina Panthers (NFL Network, CBS, Amazon Prime)
- Oct. 19 – Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders (NFL Network, CBS, Amazon Prime)
- Oct. 26 – Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens (NFL Network, CBS, Amazon Prime)
- Oct. 29 – Vikings vs. Browns (NFL Network)
- Nov. 02 – Bills vs. Jets (NFL Network)
- Nov. 09 – Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals (NFL Network, NBC, Amazon Prime)
- Nov. 16 – Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL Network, NBC, Amazon Prime)
- Nov. 30 – Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys (NFL Network, NBC, Amazon Prime)
- Dec. 07 – New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons (NFL Network, NBC, Amazon Prime)
- Dec. 14 – Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts (NFL Network, NBC, Amazon Prime)
- Dec. 16 – Bears vs. Lions (NFL Network)
- Dec. 16 – Chargers vs Chiefs (NFL Network)
- Dec. 23 – Colts vs. Ravens (NFL Network)
- Dec. 25 – Steelers vs. Texans (NFL Network, NBC, Amazon Prime)
NFL Streaming Matrix
Below is a Cord Cutting NFL Matrix that will allow you navigate an otherwise confusing list options.
Restrictions do a apply, so once you have an idea as to which services you are interested in, keep reading to learn more about the fine print.
Watching Football Over-the-Air (OTA)
1. Over-the-Air Broadcasts
Most local NFL games will be broadcast over the air, in HD, on network channels like ABC, CBS, or FOX. All you need to pick up the games is an indoor or outdoor digital antenna. You can easily enough find them on Amazon and like all digital equipment, they can range from dirt cheap to stupidly expensive.
Just like with Cable TV, the games you will have access too will depend entirely on where you live. Unlike national broadcasts, finding out which game will air in your area, in advance, can be a little difficult when you don’t have a cable subscription.
To solve for this issue, there is a fantastic website called 506 Sports which provides complete geo-based NFL broadcast schedules a few days before the live games; making it a little bit easier to plan out your weekend.
Sunday Football is broadcasted for FREE over the air, in HD, on ABC, CBS, or FOX. That means all you need is an over-the-air antenna to watch Sunday Football for Free.
Monday Night Football
Typically an OTA antenna will not help you watch Monday Night Football, as most of these games air on ESPN. To solve for this issue you will need to sign up for a streaming services. Detail below.
Thursday Night Football
For the 2017 season, CBS and NBC share a total of 10 of the 18 Thursday Night Football games; with 5 games going to CBS and 5 going to NBC. CBS will start out the season with week’s 3-7 and NBC will close out the season with week’s 10-14.
In addition to the 10 OTA games on CBS and NBC, 8 more games will air exclusively on the NFL Network; which is a cable-only channel. But if you keep on reading, we’ll show you how to get around that.
Buying an Antenna
Figuring out what kind of Over-the-Air (OTA) antenna you should buy, can be a little bit tricky. Like all electronic equipment, OTA antennas can range from dirt cheap to stupidly expensive. But don’t be fooled by the price tag, just like with HDMI cables, an expensive digital antenna isn’t always a good one.
If you’re looking for quality at a reasonable price, go with Mohu, Channels Master or Antennas Direct (as previously mentioned). These antennas are unmatched in quality, and are offered at a very affordable price point.
Mohu specifically, started out making antennas for the US military for many years, until recently moving into the commercial market. They are the number one selling antenna on Amazon (which tells you something), and suggest buying directly so that you can get the best price possible.
“…we have discovered probably the best thing you will ever plug into your HDTV. It’s the paper-thin HDTV antenna from Mohu.” – HDTV Magazine
Build Your Own Antenna
If you don’t like these online choices, and you’re feeling a little adventurous, here’s an excellent tutorial on how to make your own indoor digital antenna using a coat hanger.
Would I bet my season of Football viewing on a coat hanger? No, but if you are really hurting financially, this is an excellent option.
Watching Football Online
Before we begin, you need to know that online access to broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS & FOX) are only available in certain geographical areas; so, test out these free trials asap to make sure there are no surprises come game day.
2. NFL Game Pass – Every Game All Year
NFL Game Pass (overview article) is by far one of the best ways to catch NFL football without cable. With NFL Game Pass, you can watch all 256 regular season NFL games, plus a bunch of other awesome extras – for only $99 a season (with a 7 Day Free Trial).
Only catch (and it is a big one) is that you cannot watch regular season games in real-time. You instead gain access the games the moment the live airing ends. Great if you hate commercials, and don’t mind waiting a few hours to watch your favorite team.
One more benefit worth mentioning is that with NFL Game Pass you get all the PreSeason Games Live. Not a big selling point in my opinion, but it’s there if you want it. To check out the 2017 PreSeason Schedule click here.
To read a more robust review check out: How to Watch NFL Games Online with NFL Game Pass
3. Sling TV – Sunday, Monday, Thursday Night Football
Sling TV comes with a cloud DVR and offers few different packages, depending on the number of channels you want. Here is a full overview of Sling TV if you still have questions after reading the below.
Orange Package – Monday Night Football
Monday Night Football is the one day of the week cord-cutting football fans have dreaded, until now. For $20 a month, you can sign up for Sling TV‘s cheapest subscription plan (Orange) and get 20+ live television channels including ESPN (home to Monday Night Football).
Now $20 a month may seem like a lot just for Monday Night Football, but when you add in all the extra stuff you get it becomes a lot more intriguing. With ESPN you can stay up to date with NFL news and game highlights through Sports Center; and 45% of College Football airs on ESPN.
Blue Package – Sunday and Thursday Night Football
With their Blue package you can get FOX, NBC (select markets), NFL Network and the RedZone Channel. All you need to do is sign up for the $25 a month Blue subscription and purchase the $5 Sports Extra add-on. The only downside is that your won’t get ESPN; so its a bit of a calculated choice.
As mentioned before, the broadcast channels are only available in select areas; but if you happen to be in one of these area, this is a screaming deal. You are talking Sunday Football, with RedZone, and every Thursday Night game for $25 a month. Cant beat it.
When getting things setup it is important to have everything right at your finger tips. Sling TV Support is best handled through their support line: 888-893-9069, but they also provide support via Twitter: @SlingAnswers
4. DirecTV Now – Sunday, Monday, Thursday Night Football
Watching NFL on DirecTV Now (overview article) is another great options for cord cutting sports fans. Now with a cloud DVR, their bases package costs $35 a month, and you get ESPN, ABC, FOX, NBC. This means you can watch Sunday Football, Monday Night Football, and even Thursday Night Football when it airs on NBC.
Due to the highly competitive price point, and the extensive list of channels you get, DirecTV Now is the hottest streaming service on the market.
For a limited time, they are even giving away a Free Roku Premier with 2 Months of prepaid service. That gets you HD Football at a very low price point.
Got questions about all the different streaming devices on the market? Make sure you check out our full streaming device comparison page.
5. NFL Sunday Ticket – Every Game All Year
If you live in an area outside of DIRECTV‘s service area, your day has come. Direct TV has a deal with the NFL where they have streaming rights for all NFL games. As part of the deal, DIRECTV has to independently offer NFL Sunday Ticket to those outside of DIRECTV’s service area.
They package they offer is called NFL Sunday Ticket and it simply gives you everything; and I mean everything.
Big downside here is that most of us do not qualify, because DIRECTV’s service area is enormous. To see if you are one of the lucky ones click here. Most recently it has also become available to New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia.
(Note: DIRECTV is not the same company as DirecTV Now. They are two different companies offering two different services. Confusing I know. )
Here’s a quick rundown on what NFL Sunday Ticket has to offer:
- Every out of market NFL Game LIVE every Sunday
- The ability to stream on your PC, tablet, gaming console, and phone
- Real time stats and scores
- Condensed 30 minutes Games
- The ability to track your favorite players
- Watch four games at once
There are two different plans for NFL Sunday Ticket, although they’re not too much different. The cheapest plan, To Go, will cost $69.99 a month for four months. In total that’s $279.96 for the four months.
The second, and most expensive, plan is called Max and costs $94.99 for four months ($379.96 total). The Max plan is identical to the first plan, except that you also get the RedZone Channel and Direct TV Fantasy Zone. You also get a 50% discount to NFL Game Pass.
If you attend the following Universities you can also get a discount for Sunday Ticket: Ohio St., Michigan, Harvard, Washington, Texas, USC, Florida, Colorado, Alabama, and Syracuse. Follow the link to see if you qualify.
6. NFL Mobile on Verizon – Sunday Monday and Thursday Night Football
NFL Mobile is one of the most inexpensive ways to catch NFL football around. For just $5 a month (if your already a Verizon customer), you can stream the major NFL games being broadcasted in your area. You get Monday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, NFL on FOX, and NFL on CBS. They are direct streams so you get all the same commentary, angles, and commercials as you would on TV.
You also get the basic free features; which updates you on game scores, breaking news, and it even has a fantasy football feature.
For an extra $2 a month you get NFL RedZone; which features every touchdown from every game on Sunday. The app requires a Verizon wireless plan; so if you don’t have Verizon, you’re sore out of luck. Once you download the app you’ll need to verify your Verizon account; as soon as you verify your account you’re good to go!
Unfortunately for people wanting to stream NFL Mobile to their TV, there are a lot of barriers in the way. If you try stream from your phone to the TV, NFL Mobile will detect the screencast and shut you down.
If you have an android phone and Google Chromecast, however, you may be able to get around this. First, download the Chromecast app (which you can get here) for your phone. Open up the application and select “Cast Screen” and select the Chromecast device. Once your TV begins streaming from the phone, you should be able to launch NFL Mobile and watch it on your TV.
Again, there are limitations with even this option and I am not sure how long the NFL will allow it. In fact, just today (8/21/17) I heard from several people who said this no longer works. So this could be a solution for last year that is no longer viable. Plus , if you are a HD / picture quality snob like I am, you may miss the crystal-clear signal some of these other services offer.
7. Amazon Prime – Thursday Night Football
If you have a subscription to Amazon Prime, you will be able to live stream all ten of the Thursday Night Football games that air on CBS and NBC.
If you do not have Amazon Prime, what are you waiting for? The benefits greatly outweigh the cost.
8. PlayStation Vue – Thursday Night Football
Now available across the US, PlayStation Vue is offering nearly 50 channels for $39 a month, dubbed the Access plan. This is $10 more than their competitor, Sling TV, but they do also provide ESPN in their base package.
For an extra $5 a month you can sign up for the Core plan and get additional channels, including the NFL Network.
9. CBS All Access – Sunday Football
If you don’t have an antenna, don’t want an antenna, or just find yourself unable to access OTA television; check out CBS All Access. For $6 a month, CBS All Access give you live streaming access to CBS television, including LIVE NFL Games that air on the network. By no means is it comprehensive, but it’s still a good low-cost option for those of you that want to live stream the NFL.
Restrictions do apply, so read the fine print to make sure live NFL games will air in your area.
10. fubo.TV – Sunday Football in Espanol
If you love both American and International Football (IE Soccer), then you might want to check out fubo.TV. By signing up for their fubo Premier plan, which costs $35 a month, you can get live streaming access to the CBS Sports Network. For an additional $6 a month, you can purchase the Mundo Plus add-on and get live streaming access to the Spanish language version of Fox, Fox Deportes.
Understandably this is not a great option for English speaking NFL Fans, but for Spanish speaking fans, this could be the solution you have been waiting for.
11. HULU Live TV – Sunday, Monday and Thursday Night Football
Hulu has a brand new service called Hulu Live TV (overview article). It is only available in select areas and is technically in beta. For $40 a month you get access to 55+ channels including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC & ESPN, and it comes with DVR capabilities. This means you can pretty much watch football all week long.
Here is the catch: First of all live games wont play on your smart phone due to some sort of contractual issue. Secondly locally-televised NFL games may be subject to blackouts – depending on where you live. To see all the channels available in your area use their Zip Code search tool.
Love to Watch Football without Cable
One of the reasons why I waited so long to cut the cord was my love of sports. I thought that if I gave up cable, I would be giving up on NFL football. Thankfully I didn’t have to make that choice; and as we’ve seen today, neither do you. Given the 5 options outlined, my preferred method is still, and always will be, Over-the-Air broadcasting.
But I am fully aware that an antenna won’t work for everyone so I wanted to provide this in-depth post on all the different options that are open to you.
Are you aware of any method that I missed? Do you have any additional tips you can share with us? If so please provide details in the contents section of this post.
If you play fantasy football, RedZone is heaven sent. Once you try it, you will never want to watch football any other way. Also make sure you read: Cut the Cord but Keep your Fantasy Football Team
Want to learn more about how to watch sports without cable? Here are some additional articles that you will find helpful:
- How to Watch College Football Online & OTA
- What is OTA (Over-the-Air)
- Watch Live Sports Online?Or is OTA a Better Idea?
- Sky HDTV Outdoor Antenna from Mohu
- Football is Even Better When it is Free
- Watching NFL for Free
- Thursday Night Football for Free in HD