The word is out. You can watch TV without cable and still enjoy your favorite shows without paying thousands to cable and satellite TV companies. Watching NFL football without cable is no exception. While the “Watch NFL without Cable” section gives you the best overview, I put links to jump to specific sections of the article below. I also have a separate article to break down watching your local NFL team in week 2.
- Watch Monday Night Football Online
- Watch Thursday Night Football Online
- Watch NFL Local Games with a TV Antenna
- Watch Out Of Market NFL Games Online
- Other Ways to Watch NFL without Cable
Watch NFL Without Cable
The first game of the season is Thursday, September 6th at 8:20 as the Eagles and Falcons do battle. This game will air nationally on NBC. After this first game, Sunday day games will air on Fox and CBS. Sunday Night Football will air on NBC. Monday Night Football will require ESPN. Meanwhile, Thursday Night games will air games on NFL Network. However, some of those games will be simulcast on Fox on certain weeks. In the summary below I’ll cover the cheapest way to line up all these networks.
Best Option to Watch NFL Online (For Most)
The best way for most people without cable to watch the NFL this year is by getting a subscription to Hulu Live TV. They air local Fox, NBC, and CBS networks live in most areas of the country. This will allow you to watch all of your home teams games. They also have ESPN which will provide access to Monday Night Football. NBC will be airing Sunday Night Football and Fox will air every Thursday Night Game except for weeks 2 and three.
The only channel missing is NFL Network. The nationally televised games exclusively on NFL Network are as follows:
- Thursday Night Football on weeks 2 and 3
- The Week 8 Sunday Game in London where the Philadelphia Eagles face the Jacksonville Jaguars
- 2 Saturday games in Week 15 and 2 Saturday Games in Week 16
So with Hulu, you’ll be able to watch the team in your television market on Fox, NBC, or CBS in most areas of the country, Sunday and Monday Night Football, and Most Thursday Games. You will only miss out on 6 Nationally televised games all season.
Another Option to Watch NFL Online
If the NFL Network is a must then you may want to try Sling TV. However, they do not carry Fox and NBC in nearly as many markets as Hulu does. ESPN is available through Sling TV’s Orange Package, while NFL Network is available on their Blue Package. Both packages cost $40 per month and will give you Monday and Thursday Night football via ESPN and NFL Network without requiring a cable TV or satellite subscription. You can sign up here and get a free Roku, or you can simply try their 7-day free Trial.
The Blue Package also offers live FOX and NBC in select markets. Be sure to check out my review of Sling TV for more information.
Sling TV offers the following for football fans :
- Monday Night Football through ESPN on their Orange Package
- NFL Network on the Blue Package to catch the Thursday Night Games
- Sunday Night Football on NBC through the Blue Package in Chicago (WMAQ), New York (WNBC), San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose (KNTV), Los Angeles (KNBC), Philadelphia (WCAU), Dallas/Fort Worth (KXAS), Washington DC (WRC), Miami/Fort Lauderdale (WTVJ), San Diego (KNSD), Boston (WBTS) and Hartford/New Haven (WVIT)
- Sunday Day Games on FOX through the Blue Package in Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte N.C., Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Gainesville, Fla., Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Pa., Phoenix, San Francisco, Tampa, Fla. and Washington D.C.
NFL Over the Air
Your local NFL team’s games will be available for free, over the air. That means you simply need a TV antenna. Furthermore, Sunday Night Football is carried by NBC and Fox will air all the Thursday Night Football with the exceptions of Week 2 and Week 3. You will need NFL Network for Thursday Night Games on those 2 weeks.
You can read the first part of the article below for TV antenna suggestions or check out my HD antenna guide for more information. If you are unable to use a TV antenna, then give Hulu a try as indicated above or check out the “Other Ways to Watch NFL without Cable” section below.
If you are having trouble getting CBS, CBS All Access will be streaming NFL games airing on CBS in over 150 local markets.
NFL Game Pass
While the options I’ve given thus far covers nationally televised games and your local market team’s games, for out of market games, there is NFL Game Pass. NFL Game Pass costs $99 dollars for the season for U.S. customers. This provides all games, all season, but there is a catch. You can’t watch live on devices in the United States. However, you can watch every NFL Game live on Game Pass if you are using a device outside of the U.S.
You can simulate your computer being outside the U.S. very easily using a Smart DNS service. I use a Smart DNS service from called StrongVPN to watch baseball online since MLB has similar black-out rules. I also go into a bit of detail on this later in the article.
Here are the delay rules for NFL Game Pass for those living in the United States:
Sunday morning and afternoon games (9:30am ET, 1pm ET & 4pm ET) are available at the conclusion of all Sunday 4pm ET games, and Sunday night, Monday night, Thursday and Saturday NFL games are available following the conclusion of the applicable game telecast. However, if you are accessing NFL Game Pass through a free trial, Thursday night games will not be available until 3 days after the telecast.
Those are the major details, but there are some other possible options for Verizon Wireless customers and some select online streaming of NFL games. There is also an online option for NFL Sunday Ticket for folks in certain living situations. I cover all of this in the rest of the article.
Watch Monday Night Football Online
Monday Night Football airs on ESPN. If you are solely interested in watching Monday Night Football, the services below offer ESPN.
- Sling TV Orange
- DirecTV Now
- Hulu with Live TV
- PlayStation Vue
- YouTube TV (Only in select areas)
- Verizon Wireless Customers (explained below)
Watch Thursday Night Football Online
If you are interested is just catching Thursday Night Football, then the NFL Network is what you need. While other networks air certain Thursday games, NFL Network will air all of them. Below are the services where you can find the NFL Network.
Thursday Night Football on Amazon
Amazon Prime will be showing all the Thursday Night games simulcast on Fox this season through their Prime Video App. They will also be streaming these games live on Amazon-owned Twitch, which means you don’t need to buy an Amazon Prime membership to watch these games.
NFL Without Cable for Free
Living just outside Baltimore, I can watch all 16 regular season Ravens games, and their postseason games as well with my Mohu Sky 60 antenna. Whether your local NFL team is playing home or away, on Monday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, or Sunday Night Football, your local affiliate should be broadcasting the game over the air (OTA). I’ve written a guide so you can choose the best TV antenna for your needs.
Additionally, since broadcast TV is less compressed, the picture will be of much higher quality than what you are used to with cable and satellite TV. I’d much rather watch football OTA. Watching on cable or satellite just feels grainy by comparison.
Watch Out of Market NFL Games
The NFL announced that is will stream all 256 NFL regular season games, all preseason games, playoffs and Super Bowl for the 2017-2018 season with NFL Game Pass.
Currently, NFL Game Pass will be available on iPad, iPhone, Android Tablets and Phones, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Roku, and Apple TV. More devices are to follow.
In the past NFL Game Pass was only open to people living outside the US. Now it appears people living within the U.S. will be able to enjoy NFL streaming as well. Unfortunately, there is a slight blackout delay. If you read the fine print on the NFL Game Pass Website . . .
*NFL Game Pass includes live access to most preseason games. Such live preseason games do not include all nationally-broadcast preseason games and any preseason games televised in a user’s local market. Preseason games that are not available live in NFL Game Pass will be made available on-demand in the NFL Game Pass archives shortly after the conclusion of the original telecast. NFL Game Pass does not include live regular season, playoff, and Super Bowl game broadcasts. Access to these games is available within NFL Game Pass on an on-demand basis in the NFL Game Pass archives after such games have aired on broadcast television. Sunday morning and afternoon games (9:30am ET, 1pm ET & 4pm ET) are available at the conclusion of all Sunday 4pm ET games, and Sunday night, Monday night, Thursday and Saturday NFL games are available following the conclusion of the applicable game telecast. NFL Game Pass is unavailable during the telecast of the Super Bowl. Some 2009 regular season games are not available. NFL Game Pass is only available to users within the United States, Bermuda, Antigua, the Bahamas, any U.S. territories, possessions and commonwealths (including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands), and Mexico.**Some live Preseason games may not be available live on phones, but will always be available in the archives.
Now that we’ve all gone cross-eyed, I’ll sum up what that means in English. Essentially, for the regular season, you have to wait until the 4 pm EST Sunday games are completed before you can watch the 1 pm and 4 pm Sunday games.
Any Night games (whether Sunday, Monday, Thursday or Saturday) will be available at the conclusion of the game. Preseason games will be live, except if they are televised in your local market. Then they will be available once the telecast has concluded.
NFL Game Pass will provide the following functionality and more . . .
- The ability to connect to multiple devices
- Turn scores on and off to avoid spoilers
- Condensed game versions that are about 30 minutes long
- Full replay of every game from 2009 until present day
- Coaches Film
- DVR Controls
Getting Around the Black-Out
As I mentioned earlier, if you are outside the U.S, you can watch every NFL game live through NFL Game Pass. For example, all we have to do is make our computer look like it is in France and you can stream all NFL Games live as if you are living there.
To do this you can use a SmartDNS service or VPN to simulate a foreign IP address. The details of doing this are described in my article on using a SmartDNS. I personally use Overplay SmartDNS to do this. The basic steps to do this are below. Make sure you set up your DNS before purchasing Game Pass. You will need to purchase it while using the foreign DNS.
Setting up SmartDNS for NFL Game Pass
You get the Strong DNS for free when you sign up for StrongVPN. So just doing the following should get you around the blackout.
Once the Smart DNS is set up, you can sign up for MLB.TV. You can use your current billing address. The SmartDNS will still open up all games since you are based abroad from the perspective of Game Pass.
Other Ways to Watch the NFL Online
NFL On PlayStation Vue
PlayStation VUE also provides NFL Network and ESPN in their “Core Package” for $44.99 per month. The VUE also has ESPN rivaling Sling TV when it comes to watching prime-time football.
PlayStation VUE also offers the Live Local Affiliates for the following broadcast networks in the following markets:
CBS: Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Harrisburg, Hartford/New Haven, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and West Palm Beach.
FOX: Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Gainesville, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Tampa, and Washington DC
NBC: Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Hartford/New Haven, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington DC
Check out our full review of PlayStation Vue for more information.
NFL Mobile from Verizon Wireless
If you are a Verizon Wireless customer, then you have a way to watch Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football online, and in-market games for free. New and existing customers with Verizon’s More Everything Plan have full access to this perk. This doesn’t require you to have a cable TV, satellite, or even a Verizon FiOS account. Here are the details from Verizon.
The Yahoo! Sports app (iOS 8+, Android 4.1+) provides access to all of the below NFL material:
- In-game highlights
- Game Previews
- Pre-season live videos
- Regular season live videos, including Sunday afternoon in-market local games (there’s no access to out-of-market games) and Thursday, Sunday and Monday night games.
- All 11 playoff games
- Super Bowl 53
- The Pro Bowl
You can watch live NFL games on the Yahoo! Sports App, as well as on these other Verizon platforms:
- AOL Sports
If you are a cord-cutter and an NFL fan, Verizon’s More Everything Plan fills a huge void in your ability to watch NFL without cable. The app is available on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. Unfortunately this app currently only works on mobile devices. The app shuts down when attempting to mirror your phone to Apple TV or Roku.
Typically, NFL Sunday Ticket is only available to Direct TV subscribers. However, there are situations where NFL Sunday Ticket is available to you online without subscribing to Direct TV.
New for 2018, Select zip codes in the Greater Los Angeles, Phoenix, Boston, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Hartford, and Louisville areas with a minimum $55/month “Live a Little” DIRECTV NOW package will have access to NFL Sunday Ticket.
During last years NFL Season, NFL Sunday Ticket Online was available to people living in select apartment buildings, attending one of the 10 select universities, or living in select areas within the metro areas of New York City, Philadelphia, or San Francisco.
This year they are expanding that offering to “select multi-dwelling unit buildings nationwide.” They have also expanded the offering to more Colleges and Universities. You can verify eligibility on their website.
Blackout rules still apply, so you will still need an antenna to catch games within your local market.
You Don’t Need Cable to Watch the NFL
That’s the takeaway here. There are plenty of ways to watch NFL football without paying an arm and a leg for cable or satellite TV. Your local NFL team’s games can be seen on an OTA antenna along with Sunday and Thursday Night Football.
Set yourself up with NFL Game Pass and you can watch every NFL game online. Verizon Wireless customers can watch Thursday Night Football online for free along with the Sunday and Monday Night Game as well. If you have Sling TV, you have access to Monday Night Football live on ESPN. The options are plentiful.
If you enjoyed this article, please Subscribe to our weekly newsletter. It goes out every Thursday and keeps you up to date on information relevant to cord cutters. Subscribing will also inform you on the latest deals out there for internet, streaming, and more.
If this article didn't answer your specific question, check out the Cord Cutting Guide. It provides links to the most important articles in our over 200 pages of content to help you ditch pay TV.