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 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 12!! Sorry if you were expecting the bare minimum.
But before we get into all the different ways to watch, I will briefly go over TV channel lineups, our NFL Streaming Matrix, weekly key match-ups, and the Thursday Night Football schedule.
- Looking to watch College Football? Read 6 Ways to Watch College Football Without Cable
NFL TV Channels
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.
- 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.
NFL Streaming Matrix
Below is a Cord Cutting NFL Matrix that will allow you navigate an otherwise confusing list options.
Click the image below to see exactly which channels are offered by each streaming service:
Restrictions do an apply, so once you have an idea as to which services you are interested in, keep reading to learn more about the fine print.
Week 16 Key NFL Match-ups
We’ve got another exciting week of NFL football barreling towards us at full speed; and if you’re looking to tune in while tuning out the high costs of cable, stick around because we’re going to show you how you can watch Week 16 of the NFL without cable.
Saturday Football – Dec. 23rd
Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers, 8:30 PM (EST), NBC
After losing all chance of making the playoffs, the only thing the Green Bay Packers can hope to do this weekend is upset the Minnesota Vikings as best they can. The Vikings last week were able to claim the NFC North title and are cruising into this week with little to lose. Normally this would be great news for the Packers, but with Rodgers placed on the injured reserved list, things are going to be more than even.
Sunday Football – Dec 24th
Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots, 1:00 PM, CBS
The Buffalo Bills would love nothing more for Christmas than to upset the New England Patriots. If they could pull it off, the win would most assuredly launch them into their first post-season appearance since 1999; but that’s a big if. Ever conscious of the post-season, the Patriots are very motivated to keep the top seed in the AFC, and it’s doubtful that they’re just going to let the Bills topple them now.
Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints, 1:00 PM, Fox
It’s been only two weeks since the Atlanta Falcons beat the New Orleans Saints 20-17 and now they get chance for a repeat. As evidenced by the last game, the Saints and the Falcons are two evenly matched teams with equal chances of besting one another. The X-factors for this matchup will be the New Orleans’ home field advantage and the fact that Atlanta is playing a short week.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 PM, Fox
This is the game that could make or break the post-season chances for both the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys. This critical match-up could not have come at a better time for the Cowboys, who just got Ezekiel Elliot back after a four game suspension. Without Elliot they were able to win the last three games, and now that they have him back, Dallas looks to be all the more deadly. On the flip side, Elliot has publicly promised to run for over 200 yards this week; a statement that probably does not sit too well with the Seahawks defensive line. If I was a betting man, I would say that Pete Carrol and the Hawks do everything in their power to shut down Dallas’ run game – just to prove that no one can make them look a fool.
Monday Night Football – Dec 25th
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Houston Texans, 4:30 PM, NBC
After a tough 27-24 loss to the Patriots last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be ready and rarin’ to go against the Houston Texans. Suffering from terrible season and a long line of injuries, there’s little Houston is going to be able to do against Pittsburgh; who also happens to be a strong contender for the Super Bowl this year. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, will want to win this game very badly if they hope to host a playoff game; so expect them to be highly motivated.
Oakland Raiders vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 8:30, ESPN
Depending on how things shake out this week, this game may not mean a whole lot to either team. Although the Oakland Raiders are still in contention to make the playoffs, a lot of “Ifs” have to occur in order for that to happen. Most likely, regardless of this game, they’ll get taken out of the race before the game even begins. Likewise, if the Vikings lose their game against the Packers, this game will also lose all meaning for the Eagles. The edge in this match-up goes to the Eagles, although neither team is likely to play their hearts out.
To watch all of this week’s exciting games, you will need two things: an over-the-air (OTA )antenna and subscription to a live television streaming service that offers ESPN. With an OTA antenna, you’ll be able to watch anything that airs on network television (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, etc..), which includes our highlighted games. The only drawback is that which game you watch will be dependent on where you live.
If the game of your choice in your area, however, you can always get a subscription to NFL Game Pass and get access to every out-of-market game in the regular season for $99 a season. To find out more, keep reading.
See the complete NFL TV Schedule here.
Thursday Night Football TV Schedule
I wanted to provide a quick overview of the Thursday Night schedule so that you could see the different tools and services that are joining the fun. For now just browse through this schedule and take note of the different services offering access from week to week.
Then come back to this list later on if there is a certain game you want to watch and you need to find the best way to watch it.
- Sept. 14 – Texans vs. Bengals
- Sept. 21 – Rams vs. 49ers
NFL Network, CBS, Amazon Prime
- Sept. 28 – Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
- Oct. 05 – New England Patriots vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Oct. 12 – Philadelphia Eagles vs. Carolina Panthers
- Oct. 19 – Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders
- Oct. 26 – Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens
- Oct. 29 – Vikings vs. Browns
- Nov. 02 – Bills vs. Jets
NFL Network, NBC, Amazon Prime
- Nov. 09 – Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals
- Nov. 16 – Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
- Nov. 30 – Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys
- Dec. 07 – New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons
- Dec. 14 – Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts
- Dec. 16 – Bears vs. Lions
- Dec. 16 – Chargers vs Chiefs
- Dec. 23 – Colts vs. Ravens
NFL Network, NBC, Amazon Prime
- Dec. 25 – Steelers vs. Texans
12 Ways to Watch NFL without Cable
1. Over-the-Air Broadcasts – Watching Football Over-the-Air (OTA)
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 regional game will air in your area, in advance, can be a little difficult when you don’t have a cable subscription.
If you are curious how Regional vs National NFL Broadcasts work, check out this great article on BGR called The definitive guide to watching NFL football without cable.
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 this issue you will need to sign up for a streaming service. 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).
The 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 areas, 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 fingertips. 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 option 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.
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.
The package they offer is called NFL Sunday Ticket and it simply gives you everything, and I mean everything.
The 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 on 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 to 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 an 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.
What Happen to Twitter NFL Coverage?
Twitter gave up their rights to stream Thursday Night Football when Amazon agreed to a record-breaking deal valued at an estimated $50 million (up from the $10 million Twitter last year).
To recoup, Twitter is still working with the NFL to bring a new, 30-min. live show called #NFLBlitz.
This new NFL News show will air Monday – Thursday (September 4-7). Then staring on September 10th #NFLBlitz will run Monday – Thursdays at 4 PM PT for the remainder of the 2017 NFL Season.
Twitter will also simulcast live coverage of NFL Media’s Fantasy Gameday that airs on Sunday mornings during the regular season.
To watch these shows simply follow @TwitterSports on Twitter or search the hashtag #NFLBlitz.
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 gives 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 won’t 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.
12. NFL Stream on Yahoo – Sunday Morning Football
The NFL will host 5 international games in 2017. Here is a list of the exact games that will be played abroad:
- Wembley, London
- Week 3: Ravens vs. Jaguars – Sun. 9/24
- Week 4: Saints vs. Dolphins – Sun. 10/1
- Twickenham, London
- Week 7: Cardinals vs. Rams – Sun. 10/22
- Week 8: Vikings vs. Browns – Sun. 10/29
- Estadio Azteca, Mexico
- Week 11: Patriots vs. Raiders – Sun. 11/19
So far Yahoo has only announced that it is offering free streaming access to the Week 3 match-up, but I suspect that all these games will be offered for free via a yahoo stream.
Not bad right? Number 12 on our list offers you a way to watch 5 NFL games for free this season!
BONUS: NFL on TuneIn
Sometime we dont get what we want; and sometimes we want to watch football but cant. For those Sunday, Monday or Thursdays that you just cannot be in front of a screen, you have NFL on TuneIn.
Listen to every score as it happens, in live time. TuneIn offers the best audio game day experience for cordcutting NFL fans.
Click here to test out their free trial ($9 a month thereafter).
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