Tech

How to watch the NFL playoffs without cable

Here's how to stream the playoffs online

People playing football on a field Credit: Getty images / WoodysPhotos

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Sports may look different this year, but if there's one thing even a global pandemic couldn't touch, it's football. The NFL has maintained a steady schedule of games in its 2020-2021 season, adjusting times and matches as necessary due to COVID protocols. As the season comes to an end, we're looking forward to a (potentially) normal playoff schedule ahead. If you're hunting for a way to watch your favorite teams fight for their spots in the Super Bowl, we have great news: You don't need cable to do so.

From network-specific streaming apps to all-inclusive cable replacements, you've got more options than ever before. The next few weeks are critical for any football fan, so here's how you can keep watching the best teams duke it out on the road to the big game.

We've outlined every streaming network you can use to watch each game, but know that this list has a huge caveat: COVID. As staff members and players test positive, schedules may shift. The NFL claims it's doing everything it can to keep games exactly where they're supposed to be, but even the National Football League can't control where and when the virus will strike. We've included the schedule as it stands thus far, but know dates and times may shift due to COVID.

Every network you can use to stream the playoffs

Playoff games will stream on a number of networks, from ESPN to CBS. You can opt for a streaming service like YouTube TV, which includes most networks, or go for an app-specific approach if your favorite team is playing exclusively on one network. Here are all the streaming services showing playoff games this season.

YouTube TV

Youtube TV
Credit: Youtube

Youtube TV is a great replacement for cable.

Games you can watch: All
Playoffs will stream on all major networks like ABC, Fox, and CBS, as well as smaller channels like ESPN and Nickelodeon (seriously), so if you're itching to watch every game throughout the playoffs, subscribe to a streaming network like YouTube TV, which carries all the networks a sports lover could dream of. YouTube TV offers monthly contracts, so you can subscribe for the month of January without committing to payment for a full year.

You can snag two free weeks of YouTube TV as part of its trial, so if you sign up on 1/9, you can watch the Wild Card and Divisional playoffs for free on all networks. You'll have to pay the network's full price to watch the Conference Championship and Super Bowl (or you can explore one of the other options below for these games).

Sign up for YouTube TV for $64.99/month

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Hulu with Live TV

Hulu Live TV
Credit: Hulu

Hulu Live TV allows you access to the entire Hulu streaming library, too.

Games you can watch: All
Like YouTube TV, you can access every network streaming the playoff games on Hulu with Live TV, with the exception of Nickelodeon (which shouldn't matter—you can stream the Bears vs. Saints game on both Amazon Prime or CBS). Hulu with Live TV costs the same as YouTube TV—$64.99 a month—but also provides you access to the entire Hulu streaming library, so if you're already paying for Hulu each month, you may end up saving by upgrading to the Live TV package. You can also bundle Hulu Live TV with Disney+ and ESPN+ (for $71.99 a month), which may offer further savings if you subscribe to Disney+, too.

Hulu with Live TV offers free trials, but the length depends on whether you're a new or existing subscriber. If you're a new Hulu subscriber, you can get a free week of the service before you get billed, meaning you can sign up before any of the playoff rounds you want below, but you'll only be able to watch that weekend's game schedule for free. Otherwise you'll be paying for the full month of Hulu + Live TV.

Sign up for Hulu with Live TV for $64.99/month

fuboTV

fuboTV
Credit: fuboTV

You can stream a number of networks on fuboTV.

Games you can watch: All

FuboTV offers another great option for watching all playoff games. It carries all major networks, as well as smaller local sports networks true fanatics will enjoy, including EPSN2, FS1, B1GNetwork, and NFL Red Zone. The Family plan costs $64.99 a month—the exact same as Hulu and YouTube TV. The benefit of fuboTV over the other networks is that it puts sports first, meaning you'll get access to a number of additional sports-themed channels you can watch throughout the year (or month, if you're just signing up for playoffs and hard-hitting commentary).

FuboTV offers a 7-day free trial, so you can watch one full weekend of playoff action for free before having to pay.

Sign up for fuboTV for $64.99/month

CBS All Access

CBS All Access
Credit: CBS All Access

CBS All Access will stream the Super Bowl.

Games you can watch: Super Bowl, AFC Championship game, Colts vs. Bills wild card game, Bears vs. Saints wild card game

CBS All Access features CBS, CBSN, CBS Sports, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and BET. If you're in it for the Super Bowl, this is the network to sign up for. You'll be able to watch a number of playoff games—including the AFC Championship game—and the big game itself. You'll miss playoff games streaming on any network other than CBS or Nickelodeon, so if you're watching for a specific team, supplement CBS All Access with another streaming option throughout the month.

CBS All Access offers a free 7-day trial, but only runs $5.99 a month. If you really only care about the Super Bowl, sign up for the free trial in early February to get the game for free.

Sign up for CBS All Access for $5.99/month

ESPN+

ESPN Plus
Credit: ESPN

ESPN carries a number of sports-related programming.

Games you can watch: Ravens vs. Titans wild card game

ESPN will be broadcasting NFL playoff games on ESPN3, but as far as its streaming service, you'll only be able to watch the Ravens vs. Titans game. The service itself has a number of sports-specific channels, including UFC, NHL, and MLB channels.

Sign up for ESPN+ for $6.99/month

NBC Peacock

NBC peacock
Credit: NBC Peacock

You can stream the Browns vs. Steelers game on NBC Peacock.

Games you can watch: Browns vs. Steelers wild card game

NBC Peacock is the only free streaming option on this list. The service will be streaming the Browns vs. Steelers game for free on 1/10, but you'll need to sign up for a free account. In addition to live sports, subscribers gain access to a number of popular NBC shows, including The Office and 30 Rock.

Sign up for NBC Peacock for free

2021 NFL playoff streaming schedule

NFL playoff schedule
Credit: NFL

Here's where you can watch the NFL playoffs.

As of early January, here's the expected NFL playoff schedule and where you can watch each game.

Where to stream the Wild Card round: 1/9 and 1/10

Colts vs Bills: 1/9 at 12:05pm on CBS, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV, CBS All Access

Rams vs Seahawks: 1/9 at 4:40pm on Fox, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV

Buccaneers vs Washington: 1/9 at 7:15pm on NBC, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV

Ravens vs Titans: 1/10 at 12:05pm on ESPN, ABC, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV, ESPN+

Bears vs Saints: 1/10 at 3:40pm on CBS, Nickelodeon, Amazon Prime Video (free), YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV, CBS All Access

Browns vs Steelers: 1/10 at 7:15pm on NBC, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV, Peacock (free)

Note: As of January 5, the Browns' head coach Kevin Stefanski, guard Joel Bitonio, wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge, defensive back coach Jeff Howard, and tight end assistant Drew Petzing tested positive for COVID. The NFL does not anticipate rescheduling the game at this time.

Where to stream the Divisional Round: 1/16 and 1/17

Rams vs Packers: 1/16 at 4:35 pm on FOX, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV

Ravens vs Bills: 1/16 at 8:15 pm on NBC, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV

Browns vs Chiefs: 1/17 at 3:05 pm on CBS, CBS All Access, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV

Buccaneers vs Saints: 1/17 at 6:40 pm on FOX, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV

Where to stream the Conference Championships: 1/24

AFC Championship game: 1/24 on CBS, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV, CBS All Access

NFC Championship game: 1/24 on FOX, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV

Where to stream the Super Bowl: 2/7

Super Bowl LV: 2/7 at 6:30 pm on CBS, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV, CBS All Access

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