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How to Watch NFL Games 2021: Stream the NFL Live with or without Cable TV

The 2021 NFL season kickoff is September 9, so we’ve found the best TV deals to help you catch all the games.

Best overall

Plan: DIRECTV CHOICETM w/ NFL SUNDAY TICKET
Price: $69.99/mo.
NFL channels: CBS, ESPN, FOX, NBC, NFL Network, and NFL SUNDAY TICKET included (current season)*
DVR: 200 hrs. (included)

Best for streaming sports

Plan: Elite Plan
Price: $79.99/mo.
NFL channels: CBS, ESPN, FOX, NBC, NFL Network, and NFL RedZone
DVR: 1,000 hrs. included

Best for families

Plan: Spectrum TV® Silver package
Price: $74.99/mo. for 12 mos.
NFL channels: CBS, ESPN, FOX, NBC, and NFL Network
DVR: 90 hrs. (not included)

Best value

Plan: Sling TV Orange + Blue package
Price: $50.00/mo.
NFL channels: CBS, ESPN, FOX, NBC, and NFL Network
DVR: 10 hrs. included

Cheapest

Product: Over-the-air (OTA) HD TV antenna
Price: $30.00–$60.00 (one-time payment)
NFL channels: CBS, FOX, and NBC
DVR: N/A

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
CableTV.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

DIRECTV with NFL SUNDAY TICKET is a must-have for the fan who wants to see every game this season. That said, fuboTV is almost as good, with everything DIRECTV has (except SUNDAY TICKET), plus NFL RedZone. But if you have concerns about price and football-averse family members, we have recommendations from Spectrum, Sling TV, and more to help you satisfy everyone.

What channels do I need to watch NFL games?

You’ll need at least CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC to watch NFL games—our recommendations below include all or most of these channels. But for the most, and best, football content, you’ll want NFL SUNDAY TICKET, NFL Network, and NFL RedZone. The table below shows you at a glance which of our recommended TV providers and streaming services carry these networks.

NFL channels

Swipe Left to See All →
Provider and PlanCBSESPNFOXNBCNFL NetworkNFL SUNDAY TICKET†NFL RedZoneDetails
Best overall
DIRECTV CHOICE w/ NFL SUNDAY TICKET
View plan
Best for streaming sports
fuboTV Elite Plan
View plan
Best overall
Spectrum TV Silver
View plan
Best value
Sling TV Orange + Blue
**View plan
Cheapest
OTA HD TV antenna
View antenna

Best ways to watch NFL games

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
‡ CableTV.com utilizes paid Amazon links. Amazon.com Price; $59.99 (as of 7/16/21 11:13 p.m. MST). Read full disclaimer.
* for 12 mos. plus taxes and Regional Sports Fee w/24-mo. agmt. Autopay & Paperless bill req’d. Prices higher in 2nd year.
† NFL SUNDAY TICKET offer for new customers only. Otherwise, it’s $293.94/yr.

Best overall: DIRECTV

Recommended plan: CHOICE ($69.99/mo*.) + NFL SUNDAY TICKET (current season free†)
Service type: Satellite
Channels: 250+
DVR: 200 hrs.

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
* for 12 mos. plus taxes and Regional Sports Fee w/24-mo. agmt. Autopay & Paperless bill req’d. Prices higher in 2nd year.
† New customers only. Otherwise, NFL SUNDAY TICKET is $293.94/yr.

Pros

  • Every. Single. Game.
  • NFL SUNDAY TICKET free (current season)

Cons

  • High price
  • 2-year commitment

If it’s an all-access ticket to NFL games you’re looking for, then DIRECTV is your obvious pick. With ESPN, CBS, NBC, FOX, and exclusive access to NFL SUNDAY TICKET, DIRECTV has your NFL wants—and dare we say, needs—covered.

While you might be tempted to get DIRECTV’s cheaper ENTERTAINMENT package, the real game changer is the CHOICE package ($69.99 a month, 185+ channels). It has the channels you need to watch live NFL games—and all packages from CHOICE on up include the current season of NFL SUNDAY TICKET free.

What is NFL SUNDAY TICKET?

NFL SUNDAY TICKET is a service offered through DIRECTV that gets you access to all out-of-market NFL games. Yeah, you heard us right. All. The. Games. If you’re thinking, “But isn’t there more?,” DIRECTV created NFL SUNDAY TICKET MAX just for you. NFL SUNDAY TICKET MAX adds NFL RedZone and DIRECTV FANTASY ZONE to all your out-of-market games.

To learn more, check out our NFL SUNDAY TICKET review.

If you’re wondering, “What’s the catch?,” we were too. Basically, it’s the cost and the commitment. DIRECTV has a two-year contract, and the $69.00 monthly price is guaranteed only for the first year. In the second year, you’ll pay $122.00 per month. That’s more than a 43% increase. Averaged out over the two-year term, that makes your true payment $96.00 a month.

But you can choose a no-contract version of CHOICE for $84.99 a month and enjoy the freedom to leave whenever you want—while saving $11.00 monthly over the contract plan. Just don’t forget to cancel NFL SUNDAY TICKET after the promo expires, or you’ll be automatically billed $293.94 a season. Yikes.

So DIRECTV is expensive, but if football is your life, then we think it’s the best option for you. But if you’re into spending less and willing to try streaming, you’ll want to check out our next recommendation.

Get DIRECTV

Can I get NFL SUNDAY TICKET without DIRECTV?

The answer is yes, but probably not. The NFL offers NFL SUNDAY TICKET as a standalone service, but only for people that meet some very specific requirements. It’s available in only certain cities, areas without access to DIRECTV, and active college students.

If you’re not an active college student, make sure to check your address for your eligibility. Most of the addresses we tried returned with an unavailable sign, but if you’re one of the lucky few, you’ll get NFL SUNDAY TICKET for around $300 per season or just under $100 per season if you’re a college student.

Best for streaming sports: fuboTV

Recommended plan: Elite ($79.99/mo.)
Service type: Streaming
Channels: 158+
DVR: 1,000 hrs.
Streams: 10

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Pros

  • Every NFL channel except NFL SUNDAY TICKET
  • No commitment
  • Moderate price

Cons

  • No access to NFL SUNDAY TICKET

fuboTV is CableTV.com’s best streaming service for sports because it has an abundance of sports channels, including all the ones you need to watch live NFL games. In fact, it has everything DIRECTV has except NFL SUNDAY TICKET. But fuboTV has something DIRECTV doesn’t (unless you spend an extra $100 on NFL SUNDAY TICKET MAX): NFL RedZone, which is all highlights—great for the busy football fanatic.

The plan you’ll want is fuboTV Elite. For $79.99 a month, it has 158+ channels, 1,000 hours of cloud DVR storage, 3 simultaneous out-of-home streams and 10 simultaneous at-home streams. If streaming TV is your thing, Elite is a great deal. And you’ll get to watch a whole lot of football—especially since that massive cloud DVR will gobble up football games like your game-day buddies do with your magical nachos.

What is NFL RedZone?

NFL RedZone is your guaranteed one-stop shop for all NFL touchdowns. It broadcasts every team inside the red zone every Sunday afternoon, so you catch all the biggest moments.

But if you’re trying to please the whole family—Dad wants sports, Mom wants movies, kids want kid stuff—Spectrum has a couple of packages that could work for you.

Get fuboTV

Best for families: Spectrum TV

Recommended plan: TV Silver ($74.99/mo. for 12 mos.)
Service type: Cable
Channels: 175+
DVR: 90 hrs.

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Pros

  • No contracts
  • Low price

Cons

  • Limited cloud DVR
  • Poor local channel coverage

Spectrum TV Silver ($74.99 a month, 175+ channels) is one of two Spectrum TV packages to include free premium channels—including the NFL Network (the other one is STARZ, but there’s no football on STARZ, dang it). That’s already a good start for football fans, but there’s more: you’ll also get CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC, so all the major live pigskin broadcasters are covered. Bonus: every channel on Spectrum is in HD.

But there’s still more. Spectrum TV Silver has 17 other sports channels, including ACCN, CBS Sports Network, ESPN2, FS1, FS2, Golf Channel, MLB Network, NBA TV, and more. So you—and members of your family who like sports other than football—will have plenty of other sportsballs to watch in the off-season.

If you miss football in the off-season like the deserts miss the rain, and you have more room in your budget for TV, consider jumping up to Spectrum TV Gold ($94.99 a month, 200+ channels). It adds no live football action, but it includes HBO MAXTM, SHOWTIME®, STARZ®, STARZ ENCORE®, and TMC®, so you can watch tons of football movies and documentaries.

Granted, it’s not the same as watching live NFL games, but it’ll scratch the itch—and the non-football fans in your family will appreciate all of the non-sports films and top-shelf TV series on the included premium channels.

If our picks so far are too rich for your budget, we’ve got much more affordable options comin’ right up.

Get Spectrum TV

Best value: Sling TV

Best value

Recommended plan: Sling Orange + Blue ($50.00/mo.)
Service type: Streaming
Channels: 50+
DVR: 10 hrs. (included)
Streams: 4

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Pros

  • No contracts
  • Low price

Cons

  • Limited cloud DVR
  • Poor local channel coverage

Sling TV’s Orange and Blue packages both cost $35 a month. But if you get Sling Orange + Blue, it’s only $50 a month—and you’ll get all the football Sling has to offer.

Sling Orange gets you ESPN; Sling Blue package has the coveted NFL Network. It’s a travesty to ask any good NFL fan to choose between those, so the Orange + Blue package is the only real recommendation. For your 50 bucks a month, you get 50+ live channels, including ESPN, NFL Network, and local channels like NBC and FOX.

You might have noticed we didn’t mention CBS or ABC. above. That’s because Sling TV drops the ball when it comes to local channels. You’ll probably get FOX and NBC, but getting CBS or ABC is a long shot.

Fortunately, Sling TV offers a free antenna when you sign up and prepay for two months of service. You’ll get the local, in-market games for free, plus Monday Night Football on ESPN and Thursday Night Football on NFL Network on the service for cheap.

Pro tip: If you add the Sling Blue Sports Extra pack ($11 a month), you’ll get NFL RedZone plus some college-level gridiron action with the Pac-12 Network.

And we do love Sling TV’s Game Finder feature. It allows you to pick your favorite teams, and it will tell you when the games are airing. No more combing the TV guide—just all your favorite games at your fingertips in moments.

Finally, Sling TV has no contracts, so cancel anytime. You can also do a three-day trial before signing up. But if you’re looking for a streaming option with a more robust channel count and DVR storage, you’ll want to go with fuboTV.

Get Sling TV

Cheapest: Over-the-air (OTA) HD TV antenna

Recommended antenna: Mohu Leaf Plus ($59.99—one-time payment)
Service type: Over-the-air (OTA)
Channels: varies by location

‡ CableTV.com utilizes paid Amazon links. Amazon.com Price; $59.99 (as of 7/16/21 11:13 p.m. MST). Read full disclaimer.

Pros

  • Low, one-time price
  • Local coverage

Cons

  • No out-of-market coverage

If you’re a die-hard, paint-your-face-every-Sunday, home-team fan looking for a bargain, then the classic antenna might be the perfect solution for you. An over-the-air (OTA) antenna picks up local broadcast affiliates like ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, NBC, and Telemundo (plus various subchannels), so you can catch every in-market and nationally broadcast NFL game, like America’s Game of the Week on FOX.

And don’t worry about foil-covered bunny ears—the antenna has changed a lot since you were adjusting them in your parents’ basement.

Antennas are smaller, lighter, easier to install, and actually fit behind your TV now—no more eyesore. They’re also surprisingly affordable. You can get a good one for a one-time payment of $30.00–$60.00, which sure beats paying monthly for a cable, satellite, or streaming TV subscription. We like the Mohu Leaf Plus ($59.99 on Amazon), which has a nice, wide 60-mile range.

Check out our guide to OTA TV to learn more about antenna TV. But before you go, we have one more source for NFL games to tell you about.

Get Mohu Leaf Plus

Dark horse: NFL Game Pass

Best value

Price: $99.00/yr.
Service type: Streaming
Channels: N/A
DVR: N/A
Streams: 1

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Pros

  • Every NFL game after it airs
  • No commercials
  • Original content

Cons

  • No live games

Do you have the patience of Le’Veon Bell? If so, you should consider trying out NFL GAME PASS. For $99.99 a season, you can stream all out-of-market games once they’ve aired and watch preseason games live. There’s even a spoiler-free feature to help keep final scores a secret.

While we think it might be hard to wait until after the game is over to start watching, it’s a decent option to catch all the out-of-network action. By contrast, NFL SUNDAY TICKET has live out-of-market games, but it costs almost $200 more per year than NFL Game Pass. So if you’re as patient as you are a slave to your budget, NFL Game Pass is a solid compromise.

Come to think of it, you could even get both NFL Game Pass and an OTA antenna. You’d pay only about $130–$160 for a year of live TV with extra-extra NFL games on the side.

You can learn more about our dark horse pick by reading our NFL Game Pass review.

Get NFL Game Pass

We’re almost done here, but we want to drop one last recommendation that you’ll definitely want to have by next year.

Essential add-on: Amazon Prime Video

Essential add-on

Price: $8.99–$12.99/mo.

Service type: streaming

Perks: Prime Membership benefits included with full membership

Pros

  • Cheap
  • 11 Thursday night games
  • Prime benefits like free shipping

Cons

  • No Monday night games
  • No Sunday games

Chances are you already have Amazon Prime Video. If you don’t, you should seriously consider signing up. Prime Video is the cheapest way to stream Thursday Night Football. Most folks will opt for full Prime Membership, which includes NFL Network games as well as Amazon Originals and free shipping for $12.99 per month. Or you can subscribe to Prime Video only for $8.99 a month.

And, in 2021, Prime Video will broadcast 11 Thursday Night Football games. The same games will air on FOX and the NFL Network—but only this season. As of 2022, Prime Video will be the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football—the only place to catch 15 Thursday-night games (and one preseason game) until 2032.

That said, if you just have to watch every Thursday night game in 2021, go with a TV service that offers NFL Network like fuboTV. Or if you don’t want to pay for a monthly subscription, get an HD antenna so you can watch most Thursday night games for free on FOX and CBS.

Get Amazon Prime Video

Final take

If you’re a hard-core fan, get the DIRECTV CHOICE package with free NFL SUNDAY TICKET for a year. If you prefer to stream, we think fuboTV is the way to go. It doesn’t have SUNDAY TICKET, but it does have every other channel you need, including NFL Network and NFL RedZone.

Large families, or any household where not everyone is a football fan, should go for Spectrum TV Silver or TV Gold. The free premium channels in both packages should satisfy the rest of the fam.

To save money, we recommend pairing Sling TV Orange & Blue with an HD antenna (Sling TV gives you one free if you prepay for two months of service). And, if your budget is extra tight, you’ll still catch a lot of in-market/local games by purchasing an over-the-air (OTA) antenna like the Mohu Leaf Plus—and probably save enough money that you could add a season of NFL Game Pass.

How to watch NFL games FAQ

Can I watch the NFL on Amazon Prime Video?

You can watch 11 Thursday Night Football games on Amazon Prime Video in 2021. FOX and the NFL Network will also air these games. But starting with the 2022 season, Amazon Prime Video will be the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football with 15 Thursday games and one preseason game. The exclusivity agreement with the NFL will run through the 2032 season.

Can I watch the NFL on Hulu?

Yes, you can get NFL games if you’re signed up for Hulu + Live TV. With Hulu Live, you get access to channels like CBS, FOX, and ESPN, but it’s missing the NFL Network, so you won’t get everything.

How can I watch NFL games without cable?

You can get your local team’s in-market coverage with an HD antenna, or you can snag Monday and Thursday night games with streaming services like fuboTV or Amazon Prime Video.

Is there a way to watch all NFL SUNDAY TICKET without DIRECTV?

For most of us, the answer is no. For a lucky few, the answer is yes.

DIRECTV just started offering NFL SUNDAY TICKET as a standalone service, but you have to fit some very specific criteria. You must live in certain cities, have an apartment that cannot access DIRECTV, or be a student at specific universities.

So we think you should test if your location checks out before you get too excited.

How much does NFL Game Pass cost?

NFL Game Pass costs $99 a year, or four installments of $29.99. While that is a high one-time fee, it does get you all live preseason games and full-game replays of every NFL game.

Can I watch NFL Network online?

Yes. If you have a TV subscription you can log on to the NFL app or head to NFL.com/watch with your streaming service or TV provider login and stream right away. If you’ve already cut the cord, then you can watch NFL Network through a live TV streaming service like fuboTV.

What streaming services offer NFL coverage?

With NFL games on ESPN, FOX, CBS, NBC, and the NFL Network, chances are most streaming services will get you some NFL coverage.

If you’re looking specifically for NFL Network, stick to fuboTV. If ESPN covers your needs, then Hulu Live, YouTube TV, or Sling TV would all be good picks. If you want our opinion, fuboTV is the best pick since it gets you both.

Can I watch NFL online for free?

No, you can’t watch NFL games free online. While the NFL mobile app is free to download, you have to log in with your streaming service or TV provider info to get your live in-market and primetime games.

The only way to get truly free games online is to get a free trial from a streaming service. (You could try to pirate NFL game, but we would never recommend that, now would we?)

Can I stream the NFL playoffs?

Yes, the NFL mobile app allows you to stream all 11 playoff games, but, again, you have to have a TV provider login.

Is there a way to watch all NFL games with DIRECTV?

DIRECTV offers NFL SUNDAY TICKET, which will get you every out-of-market NFL game. Combining the DIRECTV CHOICE package—which comes with free NFL SUNDAY TICKET for a year—with a basic HD Antenna for local network coverage should get you access to every NFL game.

How can I watch the NFL Playoffs?

The best way to watch the playoffs is with an HD antenna (like these), which should get you CBS, FOX, NBC, and ABC (and all the playoff games) for a one-time payment of $20 to $50. Fair-weather fans need not spend a grip of cash to watch the playoffs (we kid, we kid).

Methodology

Our “How to Watch NFL Games” picks come from TV and sports fans who want to give you the most accurate information possible. We also put our editorial know-how to the test by comparing the deals, top packages, and channels lineups from nationwide providers so you don’t have to. To learn more about our methods, check out our How We Rank page.

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