How to watch every NFL game this season—no cable necessary

Whether you have cable or have cut the cord, watching every NFL game is easier than ever.

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There are over 250 NFL games to watch every season, but actually finding ways to watch the ones you want is pretty tricky. Maybe your favorite team is in a different market, or you don't have cable, or you don't live in the United States at all. We've written this guide for four years running, and luckily it's easier than ever to catch every single game on any device you own.

Here's everything you need to know:

What channels are showing live NFL games in 2018?

As in previous seasons, NFL games are going to be split up among a few different sources for 2018. On broadcast and cable, most Sunday afternoon games will be split between CBS and FOX. These games will differ from market to market and week to week, and if you live in your favorite team's market your local CBS or FOX affiliate should be showing the game.

506sports week 16 2017 broadcast map
Credit: 506sports.com

A typical broadcast map from 506sports.com shows how CBS' broadcast plans differ from market to market across the country.

On a weekly basis, your best bet to see what games will be on is your local listing, but if you're planning far in advance—especially if you're going to be in a different market—the folks at 506sports.com are the best source I've found.

NBC is handling Sunday Night Football every week, as well as the opening night game (despite it being on Thursday, September 6th). ESPN will handle Monday Night Football every week (except week 17, since there's no Sunday Night or Monday Night Football), with back-to-back games on Monday Night Week 1.

Thursday Night Football games the rest of the season are a bit of a mess (some are actually on Saturday and Sunday, because words are meaningless), but all of them after Week 1 will show up on NFL Network. 11 of these games will also show up on your local FOX station, so check the NFL's complete Thursday Night schedule to see if you'll need to add NFL Network to see your favorite team.

Week 1 NFL Schedule
Credit: NFL.com

The NFL publishes the broadcast carrier for every game every week, but you won't get every game in your market each week.

Unlike the regular Sunday afternoon games, the games on Thursday, Sunday night, and Monday night are "national" games—so if your team is playing in those games you should be able to see it no matter what market you're in (as long as you get that station).

How can I watch local NFL games broadcast live?

If you have cable, you can obviously just tune to your local FOX, CBS, or NBC affiliate to pick up those games. If you don't have cable, or if you live within broadcast reach of another affiliate, you can also use an over-the-air antenna to pick up these broadcasts.

For more on this method, check out our handy guide from last year. You can also check out our updated guide to the best over-the-air HD antennas to find one that works for you.

Over-the-air broadcasts are free, live, and shown in digital HD—meaning if you get the signal, you should get it in the same quality as you do over cable, without static or fuzz. Weather and antenna placement can still affect over-the-air signals, so don't wait until kickoff to find a setup that works for you.

How can I watch NFL games that aren't showing in my area?

Okay, so that covers all your in-market games if you have cable or an antenna. But what if you want to watch out-of-market games? For that, most people in the US need to look at NFL Sunday Ticket, offered by DirecTV.

Sunday Ticket shows every single out of market Sunday afternoon game, live. For most people, it's only available if you already subscribe to DirecTV's satellite service (not DirecTV Now) and costs a little under $300 for the season.

NFL Sunday Ticket
Credit: DirecTV

NFL Sunday Ticket is available for DirecTV customers, college students, and those who can't get satellite service.

If you live in a multi-dwelling building like an apartment, in certain cities, or at an address that can't get satellite service, then you can subscribe to the online service—SundayTicket.TV—for the same price, but you have to be eligible (you can check here).

Students enrolled in college can get a discounted subscription to SundayTicket.TV at an awesome discount ($24.99 for four months), but they need to prove their active status at the SundayTicket.TV student site.

DirecTV Sunday Ticket gets you out-of-market Sunday games for about $300 per season.

No matter what version of Sunday Ticket you get, it's important to note that you're only getting the out-of-market games on Sunday Afternoon. (When watching on a mobile device, your market is determined by your location and those games will be blacked out). If you don't have cable, you'll still need another way to watch games on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday nights.

How can I watch NFL games live if I don't have cable?

If you want to watch NFL games live and don't have cable, you have a lot of options. First, you'll want to get an over-the-air antennas as detailed in the last section. That'll give you all the local games on CBS and FOX, as well as NBC Sunday Night Football.

Channel lineup
Credit: Sling

All of the services we tested include the basic cable channels, though you need to spend more to get more.

Getting games from ESPN and NFL Network is a little trickier, as both of those stations aren't broadcast over the air. Luckily, there are a ton of great live TV providers that broadcast these stations over the internet, including Sling TV, Hulu Live TV, Youtube TV, DirecTV Now, and Playstation Vue.

These services provide you with a variety of live TV bundles (just like cable), and most of them now also include your local broadcast channels.

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Here's how you can watch all local NFL games this year for free—no cable necessary

Just note that the game may be blacked out depending on what service you're using, what device you're using, and what channel you're trying to watch on. For FOX, NBC, and CBS games, in particular, you may need to log into separate NBC, CBS, and Fox Sports apps to get the game on certain devices.

Here's a breakdown of what each service costs and what NFL-relevant channels you get:

DirecTV Now:

Monthly Cost: Starts at $40/mo for 65+ channels
CBS, FOX, NBC?: Yes, but check local availability. You may need to use separate NBC and Fox Sports Go apps to watch games live and your device must be within your billing zip code.
NFL Network?: Yes, but only at $55/mo package and up
ESPN?: Yes, all packages

Note: Sunday Ticket is not available with DirecTV Now. DirecTV Now customers should see if they're eligible for SundayTicket.TV (see above)

Sling TV:

Monthly Cost: Starts at $25/mo for either "Blue" or "Orange" skinny bundles
CBS, FOX, NBC?: No CBS, but check local availability. You may need to use separate NBC and Fox Sports Go apps to watch games live.
NFL Network?: Yes, but only with Blue or $40/mo Blue+Orange package
ESPN?: Yes, but only in Orange or $40/mo Blue+Orange package

Hulu Live TV:

Monthly Cost: Live TV Only plan starts at $38.99/mo
CBS, FOX, NBC?: Yes, but check local availability. You may need to use separate NBC and Fox Sports Go apps to watch games live and your device must be within your billing zip code.
NFL Network?: No
ESPN?: Yes

PlayStation Vue:

Monthly Cost: Starts at $44.99/mo
CBS, FOX, NBC?: Yes, but check local availability. You may need to use separate NBC and Fox Sports Go apps to watch games live.
NFL Network?: Yes, but only starting at $49.99/mo level
ESPN?: Yes

Note: NFL Red Zone is available as part of $10/mo "Sports Pack" that includes other sports channels as well.

YouTube TV:

Monthly Cost: $40/mo, which includes unlimited DVR
CBS, FOX, NBC?: Yes, but check local availability. You may need to use separate NBC and Fox Sports Go apps to watch games live.
NFL Network?: No
ESPN?: Yes

Note: Youtube TV isn't available in every market yet, though most metro areas in the US are included.

What if I live outside the United States?

For international fans, watching every NFL game live is—shockingly—easier and cheaper than for people who live in the US. Just pick up a subscription the NFL's International Game Pass service and you get access to every game, live, with the app.

Pricing and availability varies by country, and some US territories unfortunately are limited to the same rules as domestic subscribers. Domestically, the $100 service does provide live gameday audio broadcasts, but you can only get live out-of-market preseason games and after-the-fact replays of games once they're over.

How do I stream NFL games on my phone?

Unfortunately, mobile streaming for the NFL has been a headache for years. Verizon jealously guarded the exclusive rights to watching NFL games on your phone until this past January, opening the final three playoff games up to customers on other carriers via the Yahoo sports app.

Unfortunately, mobile streaming for the NFL has been a headache for years.

It's not yet clear how mobile streaming will be handled for 2018 regular season games, though Verizon customers should still be able to access all regular season games on these services. Amazon Prime members will also be able to see 11 Thursday Night Football games on their phones, and Amazon will be showing the games live via its Twitch broadcasting service (typically used for video games) for non-Prime subscribers.

If you subscribe to one of the above streaming TV services or have a cable subscription you should also be able to log into the respective apps to watch games on ESPN, NBC, FOX, or NFL Network, but we're waiting for confirmation on exactly what the restrictions will be.

Can I watch NFL games in 4K?

Unfortunately, NFL games are only broadcast in 1080p or lower for the time being. We don't anticipate this changing for the 2018 season though it's possible the league will make arrangements for the Super Bowl to be broadcast in a higher resolution.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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