Can a suspended Tom Brady bring the Pats back to the big one? Can the Rams climb above .500 in their new Los Angeles home? Will any team touch Manziel with a 10-foot bong? Serious football fans are pondering these and other questions, and theyꞌre also probably wondering how theyꞌre going to keep track of their favorite teams once the games get underway Sept. 8.
The good news is that if you have a cable or satellite subscription, taking in the action online is not terribly difficult. The bad news is that if you donꞌt, the NFL has arguably the most obtuse restrictions on streaming video of any major sports organization.
While a lot can happen between now and September, here are the easiest methods to stream NFL games legally, based on how the system worked last season. While you probably wonꞌt be able to catch every single game exactly as it airs, a little patience and a little money can help you get most of what you want to watch streamed to your TV, tablet, phone or computer.
For Cable and Satellite Subscribers
If you have a cable TV subscription, NFL RedZone will let you watch football games away from home, although not in their entirety. Instead, the service broadcasts live coverage from every game on a given Sunday, but only when a team is in the "red zone," or about to potentially score a touchdown. This is especially useful for fantasy football aficionados. You can access the app on computers, iOS and Android devices, and Xbox consoles from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern on Sundays during the NFL season. Justvisit the website and sign in with your cable providerꞌs information to get set up.
NFL Sunday Ticket
DirecTV subscribers have one of the simplest paths to streaming full NFL games online in the form of NFL Sunday Ticket. This service streams live games in their entirety to computers, Android and iOS devices, and Xbox game consoles. For viewers who are just in it for the highlights or their fantasy stats, Sunday Ticketꞌs Red Zone and Fantasy Zone channels, respectively, provide what theyꞌre looking for. Sunday Ticket applies only to out-of-market games. For matches broadcast on your local antenna channels, youꞌll have to use a work-around, such as an HD antenna/streaming box combination, as described later in the article. Last year, NFL Sunday Ticket was also available as a stand-alone service in select areas; weꞌll see whether DirecTV offers it once again.
For those who live for Monday night games, ESPN is the place to go. If you subscribe to a cable package that includes ESPN, and most cable packages do, you can access live ESPN programming from just about any device. Simply use your Windows, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire, Roku or Xbox device to download the ESPN app, then sign in with your cable providerꞌs information. Then, tune in for Monday Night Football no matter where you are, or what kind of gadget you have handy.
If you really want to watch football but donꞌt have any desire to clutter up your TV with a cable subscription, Sling TV provides a middle ground. This streaming live TV service offers ESPN on its $20-per-month Sling Orange service, and Fox and Fox Sports on its $25-per-month Sling Blue service. To get both costs $40 per month, which puts it somewhere in the neighborhood of a traditional cable package. But itꞌs much easier to watch Sling remotely, and it works with a huge variety of mobile devices, game consoles and smart TVs.
NFL Game Pass
There is one extremely easy way to watch any NFL game you want online, but it also comes with a huge caveat: You have to wait until the game is over. (In theory, games are available for streaming the instant the match is done.). Still, if you can keep yourself from accidentally finding out last nightꞌs score (like on that episode ofHow I Met Your Mother), NFL Game Pass will charge you $99 per year for the privilege of streaming any game you want to your computer, mobile device or Xbox console. Game Pass also lets you watch select out-of-market preseason games, listen to radio broadcasts of games and watch condensed versions that squeeze an entire game into 30 minutes. While watching the game in real time is arguably half the fun of live sports, thereꞌs something to be said for setting your own schedule.
CBS All Access
Historically, Thursday Night Football has been the redheaded stepchild to its Sunday and Monday night brethren, but this year, it should be much easier to find than ever before. Thursday Night Football airs on CBS, and as such, CBS All Access is the perfect way to watch it online. In addition to a back catalog of dozens of CBS shows, this streaming service also lets you watch your local CBS station as it airs. For $6 per month, you can watch the service on most set-top boxes, gaming consoles, mobile devices and computers.
Believe it or not, this year, youꞌll be able to watch full NFL games within a social media app. Twitter and the NFL struck a bargain to broadcast 10 Thursday Night Football games this season, live and free of charge. In addition to seeing each Thursday night game in its entirety, fans on Twitter will also be able to watch pregame Periscopes and in-game highlights both during and after the event. As Twitter is a versatile platform, it will also be easy to watch on computers, mobile devices and game consoles. Just be sure to tweet profusely during the games if you want to see it again next year.
HD Antenna Streaming Services
This option involves a bit of DIY industriousness, but if you want to catch local games, why not just set up your own stream? Services like Channel Master, Tablo and Simple.TV allow you to hook up an HD antenna to a DVR box, then broadcast the stream — either live or recorded — to a set-top box, mobile device or computer just about anywhere in the world. The cost varies depending on the HD antenna you get and the service you use, but the local channels themselves are free, and you wonꞌt have to jump through any NFL-sponsored hoops.
Verizon NFL Mobile
If you donꞌt mind watching games on a smartphone or tablet screen, Verizon offers its wireless customers free NFL games via the Verizon NFL Mobile app. Last year, every Verizon Wireless customer had access to this functionality, regardless of the device they owned or what plan they used, and the company seems primed to offer the same thing again this year. The amount of games on offer was generous, too: all Sunday Night, Monday Night and Thursday Night games, plus select Sunday afternoon matches. Just keep in mind that data charges still apply, so it may be best to watch with a strong Wi-Fi network handy.
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