NFL without cable: A cord cutter’s guide for the 2016 season

Love pro football but don't have cable TV? It's finally possible to watch all local and nationally televised games, plus NFL RedZone.


Thanks in part to new streaming options for cord-cutters, it’s possible to watch all your local NFL games without cable, along with all nationally televised games on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday nights. With the NFL season just a week away, now’s a good time to run through all the ways* that cord cutters can watch or stream NFL games, so you’ll be ready for kickoff.

Over-the-air antenna

As it was last season, the best way to watch NFL games for free is with an over-the-air TV antenna. Cheap indoor antennas sell for as little as $15, while more expensive flat designs from Mohu and Winegard can mount on a wall or to a window. All the major networks typically broadcast in high definition, so with a strong enough signal, the quality should be comparable to the set-top box you’d rent from a service provider (or perhaps even better, since the broadcast signal isn’t as compressed).

Mohu Releaf Mohu

An indoor antenna like the Mohu ReLeaf could be all you need to watch in-market NFL games for free.

All you need besides the antenna is a coaxial input on your television; and with additional hardware, you can even add DVR capabilities to your antenna, or stream the video to other devices around the house over Wi-Fi. If your TV was manufactured prior to the 2009 digital TV transition, you might also need an analog-to-digital conversion box.

NFL games you’ll get (reception permitting):

  • All local Sunday day games on CBS and Fox

  • All Sunday night games on NBC

  • Ten Thursday Night Football games (CBS on weeks 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7; NBC on weeks 11, 13, 14, 15, and 16)

Sling TV

With “skinny” streaming bundles such as Sling TV, you can now get live channels that previously required a cable subscription, while still avoiding the sneaky pricing tactics and oversized bundles that tend to make cable so expensive.

ESPN on Sling TV

Sling TV splits ESPN and NFL Network into separate channel bundles. You’ll need Sling Orange to get the former and Sling Blue to get the latter.

That said, deciphering what NFL coverage you’ll get with Sling TV is a bit tricky. Local NBC and Fox feeds are available only in select markets, so if you only get on-demand access to those channels, you won’t get the games. Meanwhile, ESPN and NFL Network are split into separate bundles. The former requires Sling Orange for $20 per month, while the latter requires Sling Blue for $25 per month, though you can get them together for $40 per month total. Sling Blue users can also add NFL RedZone for an extra $5 per month through the Sports Extra add-on. This story has a complete guide to all the Sling TV channels.

NFL games you’ll get:

  • All local Sunday day games on Fox (with Sling Blue in local broadcast areas only; see Sling’s website for supported cities)

  • All Sunday Night Football games and five Thursday Night Football games on NBC (with Sling Blue in local broadcast areas only; see Sling’s website for supported cities)

  • All Thursday Night Football games on NFL Network (with Sling Blue)

  • All Monday Night Football games on ESPN (with Sling Orange)

  • NFL RedZone (with Sling Blue and the Sports Extra add-on)

Supported platforms: Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox One, Channel Master DVR, iOS, Android, PC, Mac

Don’t miss this other great story about watching football: Second-screen apps make NFL games even more fun to watch

PlayStation Vue

Sling isn’t your only streaming bundle option for live NFL games. You can also subscribe to Sony’s PlayStation Vue service and get all the same coverage options.

Here again, the way it works can be confusing. NBC and Fox games require a non-”Slim” package, which includes live local channels. This is available in select markets and costs $10 more than Vue’s “Slim” bundles. CBS, meanwhile, is available in some areas with Slim packages, and some areas with that don’t carry non-Slim packages. The best way to figure out what you can get is to visit Sony’s PlayStation Vue plan page and plug in your zip code.

PlayStation Vue NFL network

NFL Network is included in the PlayStation Vue Core and Elite packages; you can get an entire season of NFL RedZone for an additional $40.

As for ESPN, the former is included in all PlayStation Vue plans (starting at $30 per month in most markets), while NFL Network is part of the Core ($35 per month) and Elite ($45 per month) packages. If you get NFL Network, an extra $40 delivers NFL RedZone for the entire season.

NFL games you’ll get:

Supported platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Amazon Fire TV, Roku. After signing up through one of those devices, access is also available through iOS, Android, and Chromecast


No, seriously. After paying a rumored $10 million for the privilege, Twitter will live-stream 10 Thursday Night Football games—the same ones that will air on CBS and NBC—for free. All you need is a device that can access Twitter.

NFL games you’ll get: 10 Thursday Night Football games (weeks 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14, 15, and 16)

Supported platforms: iOS, Android, Windows, the web. An Apple TV app is rumored

Mooching someone’s cable login

In the legal and moral gray area of password sharing, it’s possible to get a fair amount of NFL coverage. That’s because NBC, Fox, ESPN, and NFL Network/Redzone all offer live-streaming apps to anyone who gets their channels through a traditional pay-TV package. (PlayStation Vue subscribers can authenticate through these apps as well.)

NFL games you’ll get (subscriber must receive the corresponding channel):

  • All Sunday Night Football games and five Thursday Night Football games on NBC Sports Live Extra

  • All local Sunday day games on Fox Sports Go

  • All Monday Night Football games on WatchESPN

  • All Thursday Night Football games on NFL.com

  • NFL RedZone on NFL.com


  • NBC Sports Live Extra: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Xbox, iOS, Android, Windows, web

  • Fox Sports Go: Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Roku, iOS, Android, Windows, web

  • WatchESPN: Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Roku, Xbox One, iOS, Android, Windows, web

  • NFL: iPad, Android tablets, Apple TV, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Web browsers

NFL Game Pass

As a last resort, NFL Game Pass lets you watch every regular season game for a one-time charge of $99—with one major catch: You can’t watch the games live. Instead, Sunday day games become available after the 4 p.m. round of games conclude, while night games become available immediately after the live telecast is over. (The package does include live radio broadcasts if you get impatient.)

NFL game pass NFL Game Pass

NFL Game Pass lets you watch all the regular-season games for a one-time fee of $99. But you won’t be able to watch them live.

Devices: Apple TV, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Android, Windows

* There are a couple of intentional omissions from this guide: Pirated sources, which are too unreliable and adware-ridden to list, and DirecTV’s streaming Sunday Ticket package, which is available only if you physically can’t put a satellite dish on your roof. (It’s outrageously expensive anyway.)

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