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How to Watch NFL Games for Free Without Cable in 2019: Everything You Need to Know

Brad Tuttle
How to Watch NFL Games for Free Without Cable in 2019: Everything You Need to Know

The 2019 NFL season is now well underway, with week three games on the schedule such as Lions vs. Eagles, Ravens vs. Chiefs, Saints vs. Seahawks, and Rams vs. Browns.

Every week, fans may be wondering a few things: What’s the NFL game schedule? What channel are the NFL games on? And: How can I watch NFL games (online) for free?

Figuring out the answers to these questions can sometimes be confusing. How and where you can watch NFL games can change from week to week depending on what networks and streaming services have broadcast rights. Among the spots you’ll find NFL games are old standards NBC, CBS, and Fox, as well as ESPN, NFL Network, and even Amazon Prime Video.

It’s easy to watch NFL games if you have cable or another pay TV package. But what if you’ve cut the cord or simply want to watch NFL games online — for free, ideally?

Here’s everything you need to know — and possibly, a few products and services you’ll want to buy or try out during free trials — to watch NFL games during the 2019 season.

What NFL Games Are on TV Today?

You can head to NFL.com to look up the NFL game schedule throughout the 2019 season. Or just browse the list of NFL games below.

Sunday afternoon NFL games are broadcast on CBS and Fox stations around the country, though which games are on your local TV channels depend on where you live. Basically, you’ll always get the broadcast for your local team(s), along with one or more games that TV executives have determined are of interest to the most viewers. “Sunday Night Football” and “Monday Night Football” are always broadcast nationally, on NBC and ESPN, respectively.

Here’s the latest NFL game schedule:

Sunday, September 22
• Cincinnati Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. ET on CBS
• Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET on Fox
• New York Jets vs. New England Patriots, 1 p.m. ET on CBS
• Oakland Raiders vs. Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET on Fox
• Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m. ET on CBS
• Atlanta Falcons vs. Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. ET on CBS
• Denver Broncos vs. Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m. ET on Fox
• Miami Dolphins vs. Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m. ET on Fox
• New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:05 p.m. ET on Fox
• Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m. ET on Fox
• Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS
• New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS
• Houston Texans vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS
• Los Angeles Rams vs. Cleveland Browns, 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

Monday, September 23
• Chicago Bears vs. Washington Redskins, 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN

Buy a Good HDTV Antenna

You don’t need cable to watch Sunday afternoon NFL games featuring your local team, nor do you need cable or another pay TV subscription to watch NFL games broadcast nationally by NBC. That includes “Sunday Night Football” games and most “Thursday Night Football” games during the 2019 NFL season.

Sunday afternoon NFL games are broadcast in local markets on either CBS or Fox. If an NFL game is airing locally on CBS, Fox, or NBC, you don’t need cable to tune in. All you need in these situations to watch the NFL for free is a digital antenna (along with a TV, of course).

A digital antenna, or HDTV antenna, is the modern equivalent of an old-fashioned “rabbit ears” antenna, and it’s a must-have purchase if you’re hoping to watch NFL games on TV without cable. Connect a digital antenna to your TV and it will tune in local affiliates of free, over-the-air networks, including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, CW, PBS, Telemundo, and more.

Plug your address into the FCC’s website or AntennaWeb.org for an estimate of what free broadcast TV channels you’ll be able to watch with an antenna. In most of the country, you should be able to get most or all of the major broadcast networks (in hi-def), though what you can watch for free on TV also depends on the strength of your antenna and where the antenna is positioned in your home. (Because you may want to try the antenna in multiple positions to tune in the most channels, it helps to have a long coaxial cable cord.)

You can buy a good HDTV antenna for under $30, and yes it should allow you to watch plenty of NFL games this season for free. The top-selling product in the category at Amazon is an indoor TV antenna from BuKee, which has a range of 65-120 miles and comes with a 16-foot coaxial cord. It is listed for $29.99.

Courtesy of Amazon

Another solid model that’s slightly cheaper is the 1byOne amplified digital TV antenna. It’s priced at $27.99, and it’s the third-best-seller at Amazon. It has a range up to 80 miles, comes with a 10-foot coaxial cord, and boasts over 6,000 customer reviews at Amazon (and roughly 75% of them are four-star or five-star).

Courtesy of Amazon

For a more basic dirt-cheap option, check out the Mohu Mini HDTV antenna (under $18 at Walmart), or the AmazonBasics indoor flat TV antenna, which costs $16.99 and comes with a 10-foot cord.

Courtesy of Walmart

The range for the Mohu antenna is only 25 miles, and AmazonBasics’ range is 35 miles, so these products may only be a good idea if you live in a major metropolitan area in close proximity to lots of broadcast TV stations.

Free NFL Game Broadcasts on Locast

If you don’t have a TV, or would rather watch NFL games online for whatever reason, check out Locast.org. It’s a free service that lets you stream local broadcast network channels — including affiliates of NBC, CBS, and Fox, which are showing NFL games all season long — with no upfront cost or monthly fees.

Right now, Locast is available only in 13 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. So it’s hardly national. But it’s obviously a great deal if you’re lucky enough to live in an area with Locast. While Locast is totally free to use, the service does ask that users consider making a donation to keep it alive and help it expand.

Amazon Prime Membership

While the 2019 NFL season’s first “Thursday Night Football” is on NBC, Thursday games scheduled later in the season are airing on a combination of the NFL Network, Fox broadcast stations (free with an antenna), and Amazon Prime Video (free if you’re a Prime member).

Starting on Thursday, September 26, with the Philadelphia Eagles vs. Green Bay Packers game, and stretching through Thursday, December 12 (Jets vs. Ravens), you can live stream “Thursday Night Football” games with Amazon Prime. All you need to do to watch these NFL games online for free is sign in to your Amazon Prime account and go to Prime Video.

If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial here, assuming you’re a new subscriber. With Prime membership, you access free NFL live streams of 11 different games being played on Thursday nights this season.

Free NFL Live Streams on Mobile Apps

Download the NFL App or the Yahoo Sports mobile app and you’ll be able to live stream many NFL games this season with your phone (or, in some cases, a tablet). Specifically, these apps let you live stream NFL games that are broadcasting locally in your area on Sunday afternoons, and NFL games airing nationally on broadcast networks, such as “Sunday Night Football” on NBC.

Basically, these mobile apps give you a free live stream of any NFL game that you’d otherwise be able to watch for free on TV with just a digital antenna. Bear in mind that you cannot use these mobile apps to stream games on a laptop or smart TV — they only work on smartphones and smaller screens.

Live Streaming TV Packages

Several live-streaming TV services come with local broadcast network TV, as well as the NFL Network and ESPN, in their channel bundles. ESPN is particularly important for NFL fans, because that’s the only place you can watch “Monday Night Football.” If you don’t have cable and want to watch “Monday Night Football” online for free, you can sign up for a free trial of a live-streaming TV service that includes ESPN in packages.

Here are live-streaming TV services to consider if you’re wondering how to watch NFL games online this season:

AT&T Now: Includes broadcast network TV and ESPN from $50/month after free trial

FuboTV: Includes broadcast network TV and NFL Network, from $55/month after free trial

Hulu + Live TV: Includes broadcast network TV and ESPN, from $45/month after free trial

PlayStation Vue: Includes broadcast network TV, ESPN, and NFL Network, from $45/month after free trial

Sling TV: Includes ESPN and free antenna, from $25/month

YouTube TV: Includes local broadcast network TV and ESPN, from $50/month after free trial

For these and all services that come with free trials for new subscribers, it’s up to you to remember to cancel before the trial ends if you do not want to become a paying subscriber. If you miss the deadline, you’ll be charged in full for the first month of the service.

NFL Sunday Ticket and NFL Game Pass

All of the options above work if you’re trying to watch NFL games being broadcast locally on network TV, or games broadcast nationally like NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” If instead you want to watch an “out-of-network” NFL game on a Sunday afternoon — for example, if you want to watch the Dallas Cowboys and live nowhere near Texas — the only real option is to sign up for a special NFL viewing package.

There are two main options:

NFL Game Pass lets you stream or watch any NFL game as soon as the main broadcast ends. In other words, you can’t use Game Pass to watch NFL games live. It costs $99.99 for the season, after a free seven-day trial. 2)

NFL Sunday Ticket lets you watch all out-of-market NFL games live, online or on TV. If you live in an area that does not offer DirecTV, you can sign up for the NFL Sunday Ticket live-streaming service for $73.49 per month or $293.36 for the entire season. If you live in an area where DirecTV is available, you’ll have to subscribe to DirecTV to get NFL Sunday Ticket, which is included with some of the service’s packages at no extra charge.

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