America's Top 120 Plus
Finally, the yearly sports drought is over. Football’s back, baby, and it’s time to kick back with some snacks and watch America’s favorite sport.
Whether you’re a Patriots fan or a Buffalo Bills fan (no judgment), you need to find a provider that gets you every game. Not to worry—we at HowtoWatch.com have brought you everything you need to know to cheer on your favorite teams during the 2018–2019 season.
Where to watch NFL games this season
If you’re looking to watch all regular season NFL games this year, here are the channels you’ll need:
- CBS (Sunday afternoons, about 36 in-market games)
- FOX (Sunday afternoons and select Thursday Night Football games, about 43 in-market games)
- The NFL Network (Thursday Night Football, 13 games)
- NBC (Sunday Night Football, 18 games)
- ESPN (Monday Night Football, 17 games)
- Optional: NFL SUNDAY TICKET (for any Sunday afternoon games shown outside your market)
So now that we’ve laid out which channels you need to get every NFL game, let’s take a look at the best ways to actually get all those channels.
We analyzed the top options available nationwide, including both satellite and streaming options. Here’s what we came up with.
Wondering where to watch the NFL playoffs or preseason games?
#1 DIRECTV: Practically made for NFL junkies
What we like: NFL SUNDAY TICKET gets you extra Sunday games
Drawbacks: 24-month contract and a price jump after one year
Who it’s perfect for: The most devoted NFL fans
DIRECTV itself is a pretty good service, but what really makes it stand out is its NFL SUNDAY TICKET package.
NFL SUNDAY TICKET gets you access to every out-of-market Sunday game, every week. That’s in addition to all the in-market games you get via the NFL Network, ESPN, and your local CBS, FOX, and NBC channels.
So, yeah. With DIRECTV, you can get every single NFL game.
Sure, it has some drawbacks (*cough* contracts and rate hikes *cough*), but there’s no better option if you’re a diehard football fan.
We’re going to be honest with you: we don’t love DIRECTV’s billing. Basically, you get one price for the first year and another price for the second year.
For the first year, your grand total is just $45 per month for both the Choice™ package (the one that gets you all the NFL game channels) and NFL SUNDAY TICKET—assuming you sign up for autopay and paperless billing. But after the first year . . . well, your costs go up dramatically.
The second year, you’ll wind up paying $105 per month just for your TV package—more than twice as much as the first year. And that’s before you factor in regional sports fees and any additional equipment fees.
Then, of course, there’s NFL SUNDAY TICKET. Sure, it’s free for the the first year. We like that. But after the first year, be ready to cough up a hefty chunk of change. The rates change every year, but this year, subscribers are paying $293.94 for the season.
That’s a lot of cash to part with for extra football. But if you’re seriously devoted to your team, it’s definitely worth it.
Watching the NFL on DIRECTV
You know what’s nice about watching the NFL on DIRECTV? You don’t have to worry about streaming-quality issues.
Since DIRECTV is a satellite service, you get good and reliable picture quality, even during peak usage hours. The only time you have to worry about your service cutting out is in bad weather.
NFL SUNDAY TICKET subscribers also get a few perks to make their NFL-watching experience even better. For starters, you get the NFL SUNDAY TICKET Game Mix channel, which lets you watch up to eight games at once. The Game Mix channel also has a ticker with live updates, which keeps you in the loop on big plays from any games not on your screen.
As fantasy football fans, we’re practically drooling thinking about it.
You can also take advantage of NFL SUNDAY TICKET streaming to watch your out-of-market games from your mobile devices. It’s sure to liven up your weekly visit with the in-laws—not that we know from experience or anything.
DIRECTV’s Genie Whole Home DVR is pretty decent.
The wired Genie DVR is included with DIRECTV’s all-included packages and lets you record up to 200 hours of HD content. For you football fans out there, that means you could record every NFL game for a month straight and still have room left over. You can also access your DVR remotely and watch NFL games from your phone anytime you need a good distraction.
That’s a good amount of recording space, but it falls a little short of DISH’s Hopper® 3, which offers 500 hours of HD storage and automatic commercial skipping. So if DVR plays a big role in your TV-watching experience, you may want to check out a DISH package instead.
DIRECTV equipment and installation
As a satellite TV provider, DIRECTV service requires you have a satellite dish installed. Fortunately, DIRECTV doesn’t charge anything for installation.
You do have to worry about extra equipment fees if you opt to connect multiple TVs or upgrade to a wireless Genie or wireless Genie Minis. When you add up all those extra fees, there’s a good chance you’ll pay way more than DIRECTV advertises. But then that’s true of just about any cable or satellite provider, so . . .
But again, if getting every NFL game is what you’re all about, the labyrinth of extra fees and fine print might be worth the headache.
#2 PlayStation Vue: The NFL coverage you need with no contract
What we like: Reliable streams and access to every game
Drawbacks: No out-of-market Sunday games
Who it’s perfect for: Cord-cutters who need all the games broadcast in their area
If you’re like us and hate dealing with the contracts and rate hikes you get with cable or satellite, you may be happier with a streaming service. The only question is: where can you stream all the NFL games you need?
PlayStation Vue is one of the most reliable streaming services on the market. You get consistent picture quality, hardly any glitching, and low buffering times. That’s extra important when it comes to watching sports. After all, you don’t want to lose or have your feed go blurry mid-play.
So sure, you don’t get all the games available with DIRECTV and NFL SUNDAY TICKET. But you do get all the games shown in your market, which is probably fine if you’re the type of person who wants to just sit down and watch a local game from start to finish.
PlayStation Vue pricing
PlayStation Vue’s $44.99-per-month Access plan includes ESPN, CBS, FOX, and NBC. But to get every Thursday Night Football game, you’ll need to stream the NFL Network, which means upgrading to the Core package ($49.99 per month).
And that’s it. PS Vue doesn’t pull any fast ones with hidden fees, so there’s no fine print to worry about. That’s a nice change over cable.
And while it’s possible PlayStation Vue prices could increase at some point in the future, you don’t have to sign a contract, so you can cancel anytime. Liberating, isn’t it?
Watching the NFL with PlayStation Vue
PlayStation Vue is easily the best way to livestream the NFL, thanks to its channel selection and stream reliability.
PS Vue is the cheapest streaming service that offers all the channels you need to catch all your in-market NFL games. So if you absolutely can’t miss Thursday Night or Monday Night Football, PlayStation Vue is definitely the way to go.
And then there’s the service’s reliability. With PlayStation Vue, you can watch live games without any major glitching or buffering—no more worrying about your stream blurring or taking forever to load in the middle of your watch party.
Of course, PlayStation Vue’s still not quite as reliable as a satellite provider. It is, after all, an internet service. So if you’ve got a slow or unreliable connection, you might be better off with DIRECTV or DISH. But if you’re committed to cutting the cord or want to save money, you really can’t go wrong with PS Vue.
PlayStation Vue DVR
Want to know the icing on the PlayStation Vue cake? The service’s DVR offers unlimited storage space.
Yeah. You can record as many games, made-for-TV movies, and primetime dramas as you want without running out of DVR space. That makes PlayStation Vue perfect for fans who like to record games so they can skip the commercials later.
There is a downside, though. PlayStation Vue users can hang on to their recordings for only 28 days. So if there’s a killer play you want to rewatch forever and ever, you’re straight out of luck.
PlayStation Vue device compatibility
We know what you’re thinking: “Can I even use PlayStation Vue if I don’t have a PlayStation?”
The answer is, “Definitely yes.”
If you have PlayStation Vue, you can watch NFL games online using your computer, your phone, or any of the most popular streaming devices like Roku and Apple TV.
#3 DISH: Reliable NFL access with no rate hikes
America's Top 120 Plus
What we like: No rate hikes (unlike DIRECTV)
Drawbacks: 24-month contract and no out-of-market Sunday games
Who it’s perfect for: NFL fans who like a little stability in their budget
DISH gets our number-three pick, mostly on the virtue of being the only other nationally available TV service that offers all the channels you need to watch the NFL live.
Real talk? DISH doesn’t have quite the comprehensive NFL coverage you get with DIRECTV’s NFL SUNDAY TICKET. and it’s certainly more expensive than PlayStation Vue. That puts it at an easy third place.
Still, it’s a quality service with strong reliability and a wicked good DVR. You also don’t have to worry about rate hikes during your contract period—your price stays the same for the entire two years you’re locked into your service. That’s an automatic advantage over DIRECTV.
Long story short: if you want a reliable service and transparent pricing, DISH is a good way to go.
DISH pricing is pretty simple. To get all the channels with NFL games, you’ll need the America’s Top 120 Plus™ package. The plan costs $69.99 per month—at least, it does if you sign up for autopay. If not, the total cost of your plan winds up $5 higher every month.
Yeah, that seems higher than DIRECTV. But here’s the thing: DIRECTV more than doubles in price after 12 months. DISH doesn’t.
DISH customers enjoy a 24-month price lock on their packages, so your service won’t go up in price for the entire length of your contract.
Sure, you pay more with DISH initially. But we’ve done the math and NFL fans actually save more over the course of their contract with DISH over DIRECTV service. And that’s even before you factor in the cost of DIRECTV’s NFL SUNDAY TICKET in your second year.
Get even more football—free
That gives you access to NFL RedZone for just long enough to catch all the regular season highlights. It’s a limited-time offer, though, so jump on it while you can.
Watching the NFL on DISH
Like DIRECTV, DISH is a satellite TV service, so you don’t have to deal with your picture quality tanking in the middle of the Super Bowl just because everyone else in your neighborhood is using the internet.
As far as channels go, DISH has everything you need to catch all your in-market NFL games (CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, and the NFL Network). And if you add the Multi-Sport Pack to your plan, you also get highlights, big plays, and Red Zone coverage on the NFL RedZone channel.
Finally, you can use the DISH Anywhere™ app to watch NFL games on your iPhone, Android, computer, and other mobile devices. Convenient, right?
Overall, there’s nothing here that really makes DISH stand out compared to DIRECTV. But if you don’t want to deal with rate hikes or the uncertainty of cutting the cord, DISH is definitely the best option for you.
The DVR that comes standard with your DISH package (the Hopper Duo) isn’t much to write home about. It gets you about 125 hours of HD storage—about half of what you get with the DIRECTV Genie Whole Home DVR.
But if you upgrade to the Hopper 3 for an extra $5 per month (plus a $50 up-front fee), you get a DVR that blows the Genie away.
With the Hopper 3, you can save up to 500 hours of HD content and record up to 16 things at once. So basically, you could record every single in-market game for the entire 2018 season and still have plenty of room to spare.
Translation: if you’re the type of person who likes to record games so you can watch them later and skip commercials, DISH and its Hopper 3 DVR might actually be the best way to go.
DISH equipment and installation
As a satellite service, DISH requires some pretty serious installation. We’re talking satellite dishes on the side of your house, cables being run to the appropriate places, professionals scaling ladders—the works.
Fortunately, DISH doesn’t charge any installation or set-up fees unless you upgrade to the Hopper 3. If you do upgrade, you’ll have to pay both an upfront fee and extra monthly fees. You’ll also have to deal with monthly equipment fees if you opt to connect multiple TVs, and the cost per TV also goes up if you upgrade your base DVR to the Hopper 3.
All told, that can cost you a pretty chunk of change and maybe your sanity. That is a lot of fine print, after all. But if you really want to record NFL game broadcasts and watch from every TV in your house, we think it’s a pretty fair deal.
DIRECTV NOW: A wildcard service for cord-cutters
What we like: Decent pricing and no contracts
Drawbacks: Higher price than other streaming options
Who it’s perfect for: NFL fans who really want to cut the cord
DIRECTV NOW is the only other streaming service besides PlayStation Vue that offers all the channels you need to watch the NFL. But in order to get all those channels, you’ll need to sign up for the Just Right package ($55).
It’s a bit more than PlayStation Vue, and it doesn’t quite have the reliability and local channel coverage you get with DIRECTV or DISH, which is why it didn’t make our top three.
But the service is still fairly reliable and features a decent local channel selection. Plus, DIRECTV’s chat agents have been getting chatty (see what we did there?) about DIRECTV NOW possibly adding NFL SUNDAY TICKET to its offerings before the end of August 2018.
If true, that would make DIRECTV NOW a top contender for NFL fans, particularly if you’re hard-set against a cable or satellite service and can’t get the local channels you need with PlayStation Vue.
DIRECTV NOW device compatibility
So how do you stream NFL games live with DIRECTV NOW? Well, first you’ll need a compatible device.
DIRECTV NOW is compatible with almost every major device, but it’s not compatible with any video game consoles. So if you’re a gamer looking to avoid buying another device, DIRECTV NOW may not be the best option.
Not all of us need every single NFL game. And that’s totally okay. It doesn’t affect your fan status at all—at least not in our book.
If you’re primarily interested in livestreaming NFL games but don’t need every game, you have a few options:
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|NFL SUNDAY TICKET|
As you can see, none of these options offer every single channel you need to catch your in-market NFL games. That’s why we haven’t put them in our top picks. But again, if you’re more of a casual fan or you don’t care about getting every game, these options could totally work for you.
How to watch NFL games for free
If you’re looking to watch or stream NFL games for free, you have a few (very limited) options.
NFL Game Pass
First, there’s NFL Game Pass. It’s an alright service, but you won’t be able to watch any regular-season games live.
It also blacks out teams in your area, so if you want to cheer for your local team, forget it. And finally, it’s free only during your trial period. After that, you’ll pay $99 for the year.
Alternatively, you could get a digital antenna. Over-the-air antennas pick up broadcast signals from the air, so they’re free to use. They’re also relatively cheap to buy (just check out this one on Amazon).
The downside? You get only the in-market games broadcast on your local networks.
NFL and Yahoo Sports app
Next there’s the NFL Mobile app and the Yahoo Sports app. Sure, they’re free, but both of them get you access to only the nationally broadcast games on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday nights—plus any locally broadcast, in-market games.
That gives these apps a slight advantage over an antenna (which can’t deliver the Monday-night games), but not much.
Finally, there’s Twitch. Twitch is an online game streaming site owned by Amazon. Amazon has streaming rights to select Thursday Night Football games this year, and the company will simulcast those games on Twitch this season.
You don’t need to be a Prime subscriber to access the NFL streams, so you can get those games completely free. But considering you’ll get only 11 games total, you have to wonder if it’s worth the trouble.
TL;DR version: if you really want to watch the NFL this season, you’re probably going to wind up paying for it. See our top choices above for more information on the best services.
We’re always happy to talk a little football and help you out with your TV-watching questions.
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