How To Watch Football Without Cable: Stream NFL and College Football

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Are you looking to watch football by streaming the NFL or college football instead of paying for cable each month?

Good news! It’s entirely possible to accomplish this without paying the cable or satellite company a dime.

In this article, I’ll walk you through all the ways that you can cut the cord and remain as big a football fan as ever.



Watch the NFL Without Cable

If you’re a fan of one of the 32 NFL teams, you likely know that there are six basic timeslots they could play each week of the regular season.

A typical NFL game week features games on Thursday and Monday nights, while the rest of the league plays on Sunday at either 1 p.m., 4 p.m. or 8 p.m. Eastern.

Seems simple enough, but there are more than five TV channels that hold the rights to games televised in each of these timeslots. On any given week, your favorite NFL team could play on CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN or the NFL Network.

And with services like Amazon’s Prime Video and Twitch getting more involved with the future of the league, the number of streaming feeds you could need to see your favorite team’s games doesn’t seem to be decreasing any time soon.

So to ensure that you’re seeing games from the entire league, cord-cutters are likely going to need a subscription to a live TV streaming service.

YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV are two popular services that will offer access to all of these channels for the 2021 NFL season.

Before you make your choice for streaming the NFL, let’s walk through all the options.

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Local NFL Games: Watch Your Favorite Team

If you are a fan of the local NFL team, you may not even need a live TV streaming subscription to watch the majority of your team’s games.

That’s because teams play the majority of their games in the Sunday afternoon timeslots that are broadcast on either CBS or FOX. And your local CBS or FOX affiliate is contractually obligated to broadcast the game of your local NFL team each week as a part of an agreement with the NFL.

This means you could access most of your local team’s games by using an indoor antenna to access your local channels without cable. You may also be able to stream local channels via Locast. If that’s not an option, a live TV streaming service like YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV will provide access to these channels as well as all the other channels you may need to stream the NFL.

How do you know if your team is playing on CBS or FOX?

It can vary from week to week based on who their opponents are, but generally speaking, AFC teams are native to CBS broadcasts and NFC teams are native to FOX broadcasts. But AFC teams and NFC teams play against each other for a significant portion of the 18-week season, so there’s no hard-and-fast rule.

Here’s a look at the full 2021 NFL schedule, which has some CBS or FOX designations for select games already.

But remember: Just because a game is marked for CBS or FOX doesn’t mean that it will be on TV in your market. These games are picked by your local station affiliates. To get streaming access to all of these games, read on about the NFL Sunday Ticket package.


NFL Sunday Ticket: Stream Most Out-of-Market Games

If you don’t live in the local market for your favorite NFL team, the only path to streaming the league without cable is probably the NFL Sunday Ticket package.

And doing so without busting your budget is going to be tricky.

This service, which is powered by AT&T’s DIRECTV, allows you to stream Sunday afternoon out-of-market NFL games for a season-long subscription fee. It does not include Thursday Night Football, Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football (more on those later).

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For the overwhelming majority of consumers, the only way to access this package is by becoming a DIRECTV customer.

The normal cost is upwards of $300 per season (on top of your monthly TV subscription), but DIRECTV often runs deals (like the one pictured below) that offer the service for free if you’re willing to agree to a contract.

NFL Sunday Ticket 2021
AT&T

DIRECTV can be a costly commitment that defeats the purpose of cutting the cord from your cable company in the first place. So for most streamers, this package is simply a dream until the NFL offers it without the DIRECTV requirement.

The NFL does offer the Sunday Ticket streaming service to non-DIRECTV subscribers but only if you live in an area where DIRECTV service is not available or if you’re a registered college student.


RedZone Channel: Action from Multiple NFL Games At Once

Since the NFL Sunday Ticket is so hard for most cord-cutters to get, many will opt for the NFL RedZone channel as an alternative to get their Sunday afternoon NFL fix.

This channel offers a chance to see most of the action from every Sunday afternoon NFL game without actually watching the full telecasts.

RedZone Channel is offered as an add-on service from live TV streaming options like YouTube TV and Sling TV.

Team Clark has a guide to subscribing for this service without a cable subscription, but it’s going to cost you $10-15 per month extra for the required add-on package.

Below is a description of the RedZone product from the NFL.

“NFL RedZone is an all-in-one channel where fans can watch 7 hours of live football, and see every touchdown from every game, every Sunday afternoon during the NFL regular season.

“When a team reaches the 20-yard line, (i.e. the “red zone”) NFL RedZone cuts to the local broadcast of that game. NFL RedZone also takes fans back to watch any turnovers, game-changing plays and scoring plays outside of the designated red zone, so they can see all the incredible action Sunday afternoon games have to offer.”


Thursday Night Football

Thursday Night Football

The broadcast rights for Thursday Night Football are split between FOX, NFL Network and Amazon Prime. This game is typically available on at least two of those outlets each week.

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Your options for FOX include a live TV streaming service or antenna. The NFL Network is available on the base package for YouTube TV. Alternatively, if you have an Amazon Prime subscription, you may be able to stream many of these games without enduring any further expense.

NBC, which owns the broadcast rights to Sunday Night Football, will air the season-opening game on a Thursday evening. That’s technically the first Thursday night game of the season, but it won’t be branded as Thursday Night Football.

We’ve included that game, as well as the rest of the league’s scheduled Thursday Night Football games, in the schedule below so that you can understand which networks you’ll need to access in order to watch games on Thursday nights.

DateGameStreaming Options
Sept. 9, 2021Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay BuccaneersNBC, Peacock
Sept. 16, 2021New York Giants at Washington Football TeamNFL Network
Sept. 23, 2021Carolina Panthers at Houston TexansNFL Network
Sept. 30, 2021Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati BengalsNFL Network
Oct. 7, 2021Los Angeles Rams at Seattle SeahawksFOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video
Oct. 14, 2021Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia EaglesFOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video
Oct. 21, 2021Denver Broncos at Cleveland BrownsFOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video
Oct. 28, 2021Green Bay Packers at Arizona CardinalsFOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video
Nov. 4, 2021New York Jets at Indianapolis ColtsFOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video
Nov. 11, 2021Baltimore Ravens at Miami DolphinsFOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video
Nov. 18, 2021New England Patriots at Atlanta FalconsFOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video
Nov. 25, 2021Buffalo Bills at New Orleans SaintsNBC, Peacock
Dec. 2, 2021Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans SaintsFOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video
Dec. 9, 2021Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota VikingsFOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video
Dec. 16, 2021Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles ChargersFOX, NFL Network, Amazon Prime Video
Dec. 23, 2021San Francisco 49ers at Tennessee TitansNFL Network

Sunday Night Football

Sunday Night Football

The broadcast rights for Sunday Night Football belong to NBC. This game, which often features one of the premier NFL matchup of the week, is the sole regular-season NFL game to air on the channel each week.

Beginning in 2021, Peacock subscribers also will have access to live streaming Sunday Night Football games. With premium subscriptions starting at $4.99 per month, this could be a cost-effective way to stream these.

Of course, NBC is a channel that many people may be able to access without cable or a live TV stream if they have an antenna that can catch the signal of the local NBC affiliate.

Here is the 2021 Sunday Night Football schedule. It is worth noting that the NFL has the ability to change the game featured in this national broadcast from Oct. 10 until the end of the season to ensure it has a desirable game in the spotlight each week.

DateGameStreaming Options
Sept. 12, 2021Chicago Bears at Los Angeles RamsNBC, Peacock
Sept. 19, 2021Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore RavensNBC, Peacock
Sept. 26, 2021Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ersNBC, Peacock
Oct. 3, 2021Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England PatriotsNBC, Peacock
Oct. 10, 2021Buffalo Bills at Kansas City ChiefsNBC, Peacock
Oct. 17, 2021Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh SteelersNBC, Peacock
Oct. 24, 2021Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ersNBC, Peacock
Oct. 31, 2021Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota VikingsNBC, Peacock
Nov. 7, 2021Tennessee Titans at Los Angeles RamsNBC, Peacock
Nov. 14, 2021Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas RaidersNBC, Peacock
Nov. 21, 2021Pittsburgh Steelers at Los Angeles ChargersNBC, Peacock
Nov. 28, 2021Cleveland Browns at Baltimore RavensNBC, Peacock
Dec. 5, 2021San Francisco 49ers at Seattle SeahawksNBC, Peacock
Dec. 12, 2021Chicago Bears at Green Bay PackersNBC, Peacock
Dec. 19, 2021New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay BuccaneersNBC, Peacock
Dec. 26, 2021Washington Football Team at Dallas CowboysNBC, Peacock
Jan. 2, 2022Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay PackersNBC, Peacock

Monday Night Football

Monday Night Football

The broadcast rights for Monday Night Football belong to ESPN. This game, which often features one of the premier NFL matchups of the week, is the sole regular-season NFL game to air on the channel each week.

Games also occasionally appear on ABC, which is a sister channel to ESPN and was the long-time home for this American staple.

To assure that you have access to both channels without cable, you’re likely going to need a live TV streaming service like YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV.

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Here are the 2021 Monday Night Football games and the channels that will broadcast them.

DateGameStreaming Options
Sept. 13, 2021Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas RaidersABC, ESPN
Sept. 20, 2021Detroit Lions at Green Bay PackersESPN
Sept. 27, 2021Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas CowboysESPN
Oct. 4, 2021Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles ChargersESPN
Oct. 11, 2021Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore RavensESPN
Oct. 18, 2021Buffalo Bills at Tennessee TitansESPN
Oct. 25, 2021New Orleans Saints at Seattle SeahawksESPN
Nov. 1, 2021New York Giants at Kansas City ChiefsESPN
Nov. 8, 2021Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh SteelersESPN
Nov. 15, 2021Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ersESPN
Nov. 22, 2021New York Giants at Tampa Bay BuccaneersESPN
Nov. 29, 2021Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football TeamESPN
Dec. 6, 2021New England Patriots at Buffalo BillsESPN
Dec. 13, 2021Los Angeles Rams at Arizona CardinalsESPN
Dec. 20, 2021Minnesota Vikings at Chicago BearsESPN
Dec. 27, 2021Miami Dolphins at New Orleans SaintsESPN
Jan. 3, 2022Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh SteelersESPN

Watch College Football Without Cable

In many areas of the country, college football actually is more popular the professional product of the NFL.

Rooted in deep traditions and filled with gameday pageantry, college football draws some of the biggest crowds for any sporting event in the world.

So it’s completely understandable that there’s a big market for streaming college football games each fall. From the beginning of the season until the conclusion of the College Football Playoff, there are way to watch all the action without paying for cable.

Let’s walk through how to watch all portions of the college football season without cable.


College Football Playoff

The College Football Playoff is a meeting of the top four college football teams to decide each season’s national champion.

The two semifinal games will be played on Dec. 31, 2021 and the national championship game will be played on Jan. 10, 2022.

ESPN owns the television rights to the College Football Playoff, so you’ll need access to its family of channels in order to see the action. Typically the national title game is simulcast over multiple ESPN channels with each offering a different presentation method.

The College Football Playoff is the grand finale of what is often referred to as “bowl season” for the sport. There are 2-3 weeks worth of post-season bowl games that are played as a lead-up to this “final four” event. Most of those games are played on the ESPN family of channels, though there are some that are broadcast on networks like FS1, FOX and CBS Sports Network. All of these channels are available in YouTube TV’s base streaming package.


Southeastern Conference (SEC)

The Southeastern Conference plays games each week on the following channels: CBS, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SEC Network and SEC Network+.

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While game day content is spread across several channels, the conference does have its own 24-hour channel. Here are the streaming services that offer the SEC Network:

Live Streaming ServiceOffers SEC NetworkMonthly Subscription Price
YouTube TVYes$64.99
Hulu + Live TVYes$64.99
AT&T TVOnly with upgrade$84.99
fuboTVYes$64.99
Sling TVOnly with upgrade$46
PhiloNo$25

You need live streaming access to the channels listed above to watch the following universities’ football games:

  • Alabama Crimson Tide
  • Arkansas Razorbacks
  • Auburn Tigers
  • Florida Gators
  • Georgia Bulldogs
  • Kentucky Wildcats
  • LSU Tigers
  • Mississippi State Bulldogs
  • Missouri Tigers
  • Ole Miss Rebels
  • South Carolina Gamecocks
  • Tennessee Volunteers
  • Texas A&M Aggies
  • Vanderbilt Commodores

Big Ten Conference (B1G)

The Big Ten plays games each week on the following channels: FOX, ABC, FS1, ESPN, ESPN2, Big Ten Network and Big Ten Network Plus.

While game day content is spread across several channels, this conference also has its own 24-hour channel. Here are the streaming services that offer the Big Ten Network:

Live Streaming ServiceOffers Big Ten NetworkMonthly Subscription Price
YouTube TVYes$64.99
Hulu + Live TVYes$64.99
AT&T TVOnly with upgrade$84.99
fuboTVYes$64.99
Sling TVOnly with upgrade$46
PhiloNo$20

You need live streaming access to the channels listed above to watch the following universities’ football games:

  • Indiana Hoosiers
  • Illinois Fighting Illini
  • Iowa Hawkeyes
  • Maryland Terrapins
  • Michigan Wolverines
  • Michigan State Spartans
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers
  • Nebraska Cornhuskers
  • Northwestern Wildcats
  • Ohio State Buckeyes
  • Penn State Nittany Lions
  • Purdue Boilermakers
  • Rutgers Scarlet Knights
  • Wisconsin Badgers

Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)

The Atlantic Coast Conference plays games each week on the following channels: ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ACC Network, ACC Network Extra and Bally Sports regional networks.

Game day content is spread across several channels, but the ACC also has its own 24-hour channel. Here are the streaming services that offer the ACC Network:

Live Streaming ServiceOffers ACC NetworkMonthly Subscription Price
YouTube TVYes$64.99
Hulu + Live TVYes$64.99
AT&T TVOnly with upgrade$84.99
fuboTVYes$64.99
Sling TVOnly with upgrade$46
PhiloNo$20

You need live streaming access to the channels listed above to watch the following universities’ football games:

  • Boston College Eagles
  • Clemson Tigers
  • Duke Blue Devils
  • Florida State Seminoles
  • Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
  • Louisville Cardinals
  • Miami Hurricanes
  • North Carolina Tar Heels
  • North Carolina State Wolfpack
  • Pittsburgh Panthers
  • Syracuse Orange
  • Virginia Cavaliers
  • Virginia Tech Hokies
  • Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Note: Notre Dame does compete in the ACC for non-football sports but maintains modified conference independence for football. The Fighting Irish football games can be found on NBC.


Big 12 Conference

The Big 12 plays games each week on the following channels: ABC, FOX, FS1, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the ESPN+ streaming service.

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Unlike the rest of the “power 5” conferences, the Big 12 does not have its own 24-hour channel. Instead, it has a joint agreement with FOX and ESPN that opens up both television and digital-only broadcasts of its sporting events.

You need live streaming access to the channels listed above to watch the following universities’ football games:

  • Baylor Bears
  • Iowa State Cyclones
  • Kansas Jayhawks
  • Kansas State Wildcats
  • Oklahoma Sooners
  • Oklahoma State Cowboys
  • TCU Horned Frogs
  • Texas Longhorns
  • Texas Tech Red Raiders
  • West Virginia Mountaineers

PAC-12 Conference

The PAC-12 plays games each week on the following channels: FOX, FS1, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the PAC-12 Network.

While game day content is spread across several channels, the conference does have its own 24-hour channel. Here are the streaming services that offer the PAC-12 Network:

Live Streaming ServiceOffers PAC-12 NetworkMonthly Subscription Price
YouTube TVNo$64.99
Hulu + Live TVNo$64.99
AT&T TVNo$84.99
fuboTVOnly with upgrade$76
Sling TVOnly with upgrade$46
PhiloNo$20

You need live streaming access to the channels listed above to watch the following universities’ football games:

  • Arizona Wildcats
  • Arizona State Sun Devils
  • Cal Golden Bears
  • Colorado Buffaloes
  • Oregon Ducks
  • Oregon State Beavers
  • Stanford Cardinal
  • UCLA Bruins
  • USC Trojans
  • Utah Utes
  • Washington Huskies
  • Washington State Cougars

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