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How to watch NFL games online, with or without cable

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By Ryan Waniata


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Whether you’re joining the cord-cutting revolution, have a fantasy football dynasty, or you just live outside your team’s market, you need a good way to get your NFL fix online. Unfortunately, while the options are many, they’re also extremely complicated.

To help, we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide on how to stream the entire 2018/2019 season, from the opening kickoff to the playoffs. So put on your jersey and find a comfortable spot to kick back; here’s your (digital) ticket to the NFL.

Note: Thanksgiving games are unfortunately not a part of Thursday Night Football, and are instead aired on CBS (Bears vs. Lions at 12:30 p.m. ET), Fox (Redskins vs. Cowboys at 4:30 p.m. ET), and on NBC (Falcons vs. Saints at 8:20 p.m. ET). To get the games, you can either use an HD antenna or sign up for one of the live TV streaming services below to potentially stream your local broadcast channels.

Cord-cutting options

‘Thursday Night Football’

how to watch NFL games online

Once again the Thursday Night Football schedule has been turned upside down. While NFL Network gets all the games, 11 of them are available from multiple outlets. In January, Fox paid a reported $3.3 billion over the next five years to land telecast rights for those 11 games, and those available down the road. Meanwhile, Amazon shelled out big bucks for TNF streaming rights, landing the same 11 games for its Amazon Prime Video service, as well as its Twitch video service. Below is a list of all the TNF games left as of publication time, including those on Fox (available for most with HD antenna), Amazon Prime Video, and Twitch, as well as the full NFL Network TV schedule. (All games scheduled at 8 p.m. ET unless otherwise noted.)

NFL NetworkFox/Amazon/Twitch
11/29: Saints @ Cowboys11/29: Saints @ Cowboys
12/06: Jaguars @ Texans12/06: Jaguars @ Texans
12/13: Chargers @ Chiefs12/13: Chargers @ Chiefs
12/15: Texans @ Jets, TBDN/A
12/15: Browns @ BroncosN/A
12/22: TBD, TBDN/A
12/22: TBD, TBDN/A

As you can see, while there are great options for cord cutters to watch most of TNF this year, you’ll have to get creative if you want to watch the back quarter of the season.

NFL Sunday Ticket (a la carte)

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If you live in a dorm, apartment complex, or city that doesn’t allow for access to DirecTV, you may be eligible to buy the company’s coveted NFL Sunday ticket package without having to sign up for satellite. The standard streaming package — which currently starts at $73.49 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, no satellite required. You can find out more about this package, and whether or not you qualify, at the DirecTV website.

While this option represents one of the most comprehensive ways to watch the NFL, 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.”

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Sling TV

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Sling TV offers perhaps the best bang for your buck online, including options for ESPN, NFL Network, and the all-important RedZone Channel — but like a lot of online relationships, it’s complicated. The package is broken up into two segments, including Sling Orange and Sling Blue. With Sling Orange, you can watch Monday night games on ESPN for $25 a month, but you’ll be restricted to streaming from one device at a time, and there’s no NFL Network or option to purchase NFL RedZone. At the same price, 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 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.

For the best shot at the NFL season, we recommend going for the $40 package, which gets you both Sling Blue and Orange, and then adding Sports Extra for RedZone. You also get a Cloud DVR, but it isn’t available for ESPN networks. Sure, it gets a bit pricey, but you do get pretty much everything you need for NFL streaming (shy of the full Sunday Ticket package, of course), and you can always drop after the season.

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DirecTV Now

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DirecTV knows that cord cutting is popular, so the company has followed suit with competitors in creating an online-only TV service, DirecTV Now. In July, the service put into effect a $5 price rise to $40 per month for its entry-level package, which gets you 60 channels — including Monday Night Football on ESPN. In addition, AT&T customers with an unlimited plan may be eligible to sign up at $20 per month. If you’re lucky, you might also be able to watch live Sunday football on CBS and Fox, Sunday Night Football on NBC, and Thursday games on Fox, but live local channels are only offered in select cities — you can find out if you get them with this handy tool. The package also landed a new cloud DVR in beta (with some restrictions), and NFL Network in August (just in time for the season). To get NFL Network, however, you must opt for a package that is $55 or above, and at time of publication, RedZone still isn’t on the list.

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YouTube TV

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It’s currently available only in select cities, but if you’re in one of those areas, you might want to take a look at YouTube TV. For $40 a month, you’re guaranteed to have CBS, NBC, and Fox, so you’ll be able to get your NFL fix on Sunday (based around your in-market games, of course), Sunday night, and Thursday night every week of the season. It also has ESPN for Monday Night Football, but no NFL Network or RedZone. The service also comes with a cloud DVR system, but with some restrictions.

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PlayStation Vue

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PlayStation Vue — which isn’t limited to PlayStation owners despite the name — offers four subscription levels starting at $45 per month for the Access package. For our purposes, though, you’ll likely want to start with the Core package at $50 per month, which includes NFL Network for Thursday Night Football, as well as a few Monday, Saturday, and Sunday broadcasts. You should 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 (with some channel and time-limit restrictions, of course) and, along with PlayStation 3 and PS4 hardware, it’s available to stream via apps on Amazon Fire TV devices, iOS, Apple TV, Android, Chromecast, and Roku devices.

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Hulu with Live TV

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Hulu’s live tv subscription is proving to be a favorite for a lot of cord cutters. At $40 per 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. Unlike most other services, you also get access to Hulu’s original programming and on-demand content as part of your package. You don’t, however, get access to NFL Network or RedZone, and if you want to DVR a game you have to pay an extra $15 a month to fast-forward commercials.

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Fubo TV

how to watch mlb online fubotv logo

Yet another live TV streaming service, FuboTV is actually all about sports, so it makes sense it would serve up some NFL action. That said, even though its packages start at $45 per month ($40 for the first month), it has a huge hole in its coverage: It doesn’t carry ESPN. It does, however, carry NFL Network, and depending on your area, local affiliates for Sunday and Sunday night games, as well as an option to add NFL RedZone for another $9 per month. This service will mostly appeal to those into all kinds of sports, including college football nuts, but you may want to check what’s available in your area before signing up. Supported devices include computers, Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Android and iOS devices, and Chromecast.

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CBS All Access

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If you’re not committed to a fantasy team or only watch the NFL casually, CBS All Access might be an option for you. For $6 a month, you get live access to CBS’ AFC games on Sundays. This is the cheapest subscription on the list, but that’s because you’re missing way more games than you get, and most people can access in-market games with a simple HD antenna anyway. Still, if you’re looking to tiptoe your way into football fandom, All Access is a decent starting point, and shows like Star Trek: Discovery alone could make it worthwhile for some.

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NFL mobile app

nfl merchandise

It used to be that only those paying a hefty Verizon bill every month could get NFL streaming on their phones, but, as announced by the NFL and Verizon’s blog post, everyone can get in on it for the 2018/2019 season, regardless of carrier. According to the post, the NFL mobile app and Verizon’s portfolio of streaming properties — including Yahoo Sports and its go90 service — will stream “in-market and national games, including national pre-season, regular season, playoff games, and the Super Bowl nationwide to sports fans,” on mobile devices, along with highlights and other content. The biggest drawback is that, unless you can find a workaround, you’ll be stuck watching on your phone as the app blocks mirroring to your TV from most devices. According to the latest reviews, it also seems to be having some trouble with pop-up ads and slow loading. On the other hand, it’s hard to look a free NFL game in the mouth.

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NFL GamePass (sort of)

nfl-game-pass

Launched in 2015, NFL.com offers a subscription streaming option called GamePass, but 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.

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Pay TV subscription required

These options require you (or someone who likes you very much) to have an active pay TV subscription with one of several providers, which (as noted by the Streaming Observer’s Chris Branton), includes some of the live TV streaming services mentioned above, such as Sling TV.

Fox Sports Go

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Football fans with a pay TV subscription will appreciate the Fox Sports Go app, which gives access to dozens of streamable NFL games. Compatible devices include Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV devices, Android TV, and both iOS and Android mobile devices. You can also watch on your browser.

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NBC Sports

nfl-sunday-night-football

NBC airs Sunday Night Football games (including the season opener on Thursday, September 6) throughout the regular season and the network also streams the games online via its app and NBCSports.com, available with your pay-TV credentials. The NBC Sports app is available on Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox, PlayStation 4, iOS, and Android supported devices. The NBC Sports app is actually pretty sweet if your interests go beyond football, too. PGA, Premier League soccer, and the Olympics all air on NBC, so the app is pretty valuable even after football season.

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NFL Network online

nfl-network

If you want to go straight to the source, the NFL Network offers streaming access to its broadcast games and RedZone, depending on your cable or satellite provider. As mentioned above, RedZone’s smorgasbord showing any team close to scoring, often splitting the screen between multiple games, is the big-ticket item. If you’re a fantasy guru, this is also a great way to stay on top of all your players. You (or someone you know) will need to purchase the NFL Network from your cable or satellite provider to get it.

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WatchESPN

watchespn

WatchESPN is an online-only companion service that lets you stream live Monday Night Football. For now, you must have a paid subscription to a compatible pay-TV service to use the app, but the good news is the app has gotten a lot better in recent years, losing a lot of its stuttering ways. ESPN only holds the rights to air Monday Night Football games meaning it won’t work for Sunday games, and, in case you were wondering, the stand-alone app, ESPN+, does not carry the NFL.

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