By Jim Kimble / September 17, 2021
Football fans have a number of ways to watch most NFL games for free or on the cheap, and without cable TV.
There are a number of options to watch your favorite team.
Getting the channels you need for in-market games isn’t that complicated. Some cord-cutters have made an annual ritual out of picking a different streaming service to try.
Others (like me) opt for both a TV antenna combined with a lower-priced option such as Sling TV for ESPN coverage.
A very basic TV antenna setup for your TV is the most cost effective route.
Everyone has different needs, so here is a comprehensive breakdown to consider for the 2021 pro football season.
Table of Contents
- What channels are NFL games on?
- How to Watch NFL free with a TV antenna
- How to Watch NFL games without a TV antenna
- How to Stream NFL Games Live on TV
- What’s the Best Way to Stream NFL games?
What channels are NFL games on?
Here’s how an average week looks for watching NFL games.
- Sunday Day Football: FOX and CBS
- Sunday Night Football: NBC
- Monday Night Football: ESPN
- Thursday Night Football: NBC and CBS
NFL Network is also airing a number of Thursday night games that are also on FOX and Amazon. The network has exclusive coverage on Week 16.
How to Watch NFL free with a TV antenna
A TV antenna is the best way to watch NFL games on NBC, CBS and FOX for free.
If you have a TV antenna handy, plug it into your television’s coax port. Under the TV’s settings menu, scan for “Air TV”, over-the-air or antenna channels. Give your TV up to 20 minutes to scan for digital broadcast signals.
Most people in the U.S. live within range of local broadcast towers. So it’s likely you can get many of the NFL games you want to watch for free in HD quality.
If you are new to TV antennas, here is a list of resources that I have written to get you started.
- How to Choose the Best TV Antenna and OTA DVR
- How to Connect Multiple TVs to One Antenna
- How to Watch Local Network Channels Without Cable
- Review: The Best Indoor TV Antennas
- Review: The Best Outdoor TV Antennas
How to Watch NFL games without a TV antenna
Many who relied on getting local channels through the non-profit Locast continue to mourn it being shut down following a lawsuit.
And you might be in a situation like my father-in-law, who for a while, lacked just one over-the-air channel (FOX) for NFL coverage after he got rid of cable.
Here is what I consider some patchwork streaming options you can use for games on Sunday and Thursday. These low-cost options have apps on Smart TVs, and popular streaming devices such as Roku. You just need an Internet connection to start watch live NFL games.
Amazon Prime members can once again stream Thursday Night Football football games for free. These are the same games that also air on broadcast TV. Amazon has a 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime. A Prime membership costs $12.99 per month, or $119 per year.
Paramount+ streams NFL games live on all plans. For $4.99 per month, you can watch live games and get a huge library of on-demand movies and TV shows from CBS, BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV and Smithsonian Channel. The service carries more than 1,000 live sporting events including NFL games, NCAA March Madness, and the PGA Tour. You can sign up for a free trial that lasts a week.
Peacock live streams Sunday Night Football games on NBC. You need to sign up for Peacock Premium, which costs $4.99 per month. The streaming service also has an on-demand library of movies, TV shows and live news from NBC Now, and clips from MSNBC.
How to Stream NFL Games Live on TV
A live TV streaming service has cable channels such as ESPN, NFL RedZone and NFL Network.
The upshot here is that with live TV streaming services there are no contracts. You can try out most of these services for free. And it’s pretty easy to cancel service online and try another until you find one you like.
|Sling TV||Orange plan: 32 channels with ESPN, but no locals||$35/mo.|
|Sling TV||Blue plan: 43 channels with NFL Network, no ESPN||$35/mo.|
|Sling TV||Blue + Sports Extra: 57+ channels with NFL RedZone, FS2 and PAC-12 Networks (No ESPN.)||$41/mo.|
|Sling TV||Orange + Blue: 51+ with ESPN, NFL Network minor NBC, FOX coverage||$50/mo.|
|Vidgo||English package: 95+ channels with ESPN, FOX & NFL Network||$55/mo.|
|fuboTV||116+ channels with ESPN, NFL Network, local NBC, CBS and FOX.||$64.99/mo.|
|fuboTV||Sports Plus: 130+ channels with NFL RedZone, 4 Stadium networks and six PAC 12 networks||$75.98/mo.|
|Hulu + Live TV||75+ channels with ESPN, local CBS, NBC, FOX and ABC||$64.99/mo.|
|YouTube TV||85+ channels with ESPN, NFL Network, local ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX||$64.99/mo.|
|YouTube TV||Sports Plus: 92+ channels with NFL RedZone, Fox College Sports and GOLTV||$75.98/mo.|
|DIRECTV STREAM||65+ channels, including ESPN and locals||$69.99/mo|
Sling TV is your cheapest option watching NFL games on ESPN or NFL Network without cable.
The Sling Orange plan carries 32 channels, including ESPN and ESPN2 for $35 per month.
Subscribers get 50 hours of Cloud DVR with any plan. You can stream on one screen at a time with Sling Orange.
Sports Extra costs $11 more per month, and adds about 12 more channels. Those channels are beIN SPORTS, ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Goal Line, ESPNews, ESPNU, NBA TV, NHL Network, Outside Television, PAC-12 Network, SEC Network, SEC Network Plus and Stadium.
Sling Blue gets you 43 channels for $35 per month. FS1, FS2, NFL Network, and NBC regional sports networks are included. Sling Blue lets you stream on three screens at once..
Adding the Sports Extra bundle to Sling Blue costs $11 more per month, and adds about 9 channels. Those channels are beIN SPORTS, Golf Channel, NBA TV, NFL RedZone, NHL Network, Olympic Channel, Outside Television, PAC 12 Network and Stadium.
Sling Blue has limited coverage of local NBC and FOX stations. Here is a map that shows which markets are covered by Sling TV. There are no local ABC or CBS stations on Sling TV.
ABOUT THE MAP: Click on an icon to see what local NBC or FOX stations are in your area. This map will be updated by crowdsourced info that will be double checked. So feel free to report local channels along with your zip code in the comments below. This map is a sequel of sorts to a similar map I made on the site in 2016 for the now-defunct PlayStation Vue.
You can get both Sling Orange and Sling Blue together for $50 per month.
If you prepay for two months, you get a free streaming device.
With Sling TV, you can watch live TV through a Smart TV app, or through a Roku, Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, smart phone, AirTV Player, Chromecast with Google TV, and Xbox.
There are no contracts, and you can easily cancel online whenever you want.
Vidgo carries ESPN, NFL RedZone and NFL Network.
There are 95+ live TV channels, including ESPN2, FOX, and ABC in some areas.
Subscribers can watch live TV on three screens at once.
Vidgo works on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, PCs and iOS devices. There is a watch-party option if you are using the mobile app.
Hulu + Live TV
Hulu with Live TV has local FOX, ABC, CBS and NBC stations in pretty much every corner of the U.S.
ESPN is included in a subscription so you’re covered for live streaming Monday Night Football.
You get 75+ channels total and 50 hours of Cloud DVR.
A subscription costs $64.99 per month. This season Hulu is offering $10 off the first three months of service.
Hulu subscribers also get unlimited access to its on-demand library that people pay $6.99 and up every month for.
So you’re essentially getting your NFL fix, dozens of live TV channels and a second streaming service for the same price as a few competitors.
You can stream live TV on up to two screens at once.
Hulu’s Live TV service has apps for Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Fire Stick, iPhones and Android devices. You can even watch it on Nintendo Switch and Xbox game consoles.
You’ll be able to use your subscription to activate a few dozen apps on your streaming device. Hulu will show you what local and regional sports networks are offered in your area before deciding whether to sign up.
Hulu has a free 7-day trial — even if you already subscribe to Hulu’s on-demand service.
You can also get Hulu + Live TV as part of the Disney+ bundle. The bundle includes ESPN+ and saves you $6.98 per month. ESPN+ is now the home of “NFL Primetime.”
fuboTV is a good fit for someone seeking a full-on replacement of cable or satellite TV service.
It has 116+ channels in its standard bundle, including ESPN and local ABC, FOX, NBC and CBS stations. NFL Network is part of the standard channel bundle.
Subscribers get 250 hours of Cloud DVR. You can watch live TV on two screens at once.
NFL RedZone is part of the Sports Plus add-on bundle. It costs $8.99 per month and adds 20 more channels including all PAC-12 Networks and Fox College Sports networks.
You can check out what local CBS, FOX and NBC affiliates are in your area. Fubo also has NBC regional sports networks, FS1 and FS2 and Big Ten Network.
For entertainment networks, there’s AMC, BBC America, Bravo, USA, FX, Nat Geo Wild, and SyFy.
You can check out fuboTV with a free week long trial.
YouTube TV has a slick interface and pretty much every channel you need to live stream NFL games. There is nationwide coverage of local NBC, CBS and FOX stations along with ESPN.
A subscription now costs $64.99 per month. An account comes 85+ live TV channels, up to six profiles, and unlimited Cloud DVR.
There’s a nice mix of sports channels like FS1, FS2 and NBCSN.
Entertainment channels including National Geographic, TNT, Disney Channel, AMC and BBC America are on there, too.
YouTube TV works on Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV devices and on your smartphone and PC. You can try out YouTube TV free for a week.
DIRECTV STREAM has ESPN and local channels in its entry-level Entertainment plan.
It’s the most expensive option out there among live TV streaming services.
But it may be justifiable to you if you have multiple TVs playing in your household simultaneously. Subscribers can stream on 20 screens at once.
You get 20 hours of Cloud DVR and 40,000 on-demand movies and shows. A subscription requires no contract. You can look over the channel lineups and packages before deciding whether to sign up.
DIRECTV STREAM works on Roku, Android TV, Fire TV devices, Apple TV and smartphones and tablets.
NFL Gamepass costs $100 per season and lets you watch any game after it has aired on live TV. You also have an option to watch a condensed 45 minute version of the game.
You can watch NFL GamePass on the NFL app, NFL.com and Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. There is a free 7-day trial for new customers.
NFL on mobile app
There are two mobile apps where you can watch NFL games for free. Even if you have unlimited data on your smartphone, I recommend using your Wi-Fi at home, especially if you have a decent Wi-Fi router.
The NFL mobile app streams free live, local (in-market) games to your Android smartphone or iPhone. You can also pick up a subscription to NFL RedZone for $35.
The “NFL Live” app through Yahoo Sports essentially offers the same thing. You can watch local in-market games and primetime national games.
Note: You cannot cast these free games to a television. The apps will only work on a smartphone.
What’s the Best Way to Stream NFL games?
The number of choices for watching NFL games without cable is pretty wide open. So let’s touch on some significant highlights.
A TV antenna is the best route for free NFL games, except Monday Night Football on ESPN.
Sling TV is your cheapest option for Monday Night Football on ESPN under the Orange plan. It costs $35 per month. Remember, the Sling Blue plan has NFL Network but not ESPN. The first month of service is only $10 when you sign up. Your second option is to prepay for two months and get a free streaming device.
fuboTV has ESPN and all your locals as part of a larger 116+ channel bundle. A subscription costs $64.99 per month. Fubo has NFL Network included in the starter channel bundle. New customers can sign up for a free 7-day trial.
Hulu + Live TV has ESPN and all the local CBS, NBC and FOX stations needed for streaming NFL games live.
A subscription costs $64.99 per month. This season Hulu is offering $10 off the first three months of service.
You get the added bonus of having full access to Hulu’s on-demand library of movies and Hulu originals. Hulu has a free 7-day trial that works even if you already subscribe to Hulu on-demand.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble