NFL without cable: A cord cutter’s guide for the 2020 season

The NFL has never wavered in its promise to start its season on time, despite the coronavirus pandemic. But much beyond that remains unpredictable. Football is a much higher contact sport than either basketball or baseball, and while the NBA hasn’t had a case of COVID-19 penetrate its social bubble, MLB has had several series of games cancelled due to team outbreaks.

Also, the NFL is bucking the protocol set by other leagues of playing in empty stadiums; several teams have committed to allowing at least some fans in to watch the games, with the Miami Dolphins announcing they’ll let 13,000 folks into the stands for their Sept. 20 home opener.

All things considered, your home remains the safest place to watch the 2020 season. The NFL has steadily embraced streaming over the last few years, and there are now more ways than ever to get your gridiron on when the season gets underway on Thursday, September 10, with a matchup between Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here’s our guide to all your streaming options.

Over the air

Unlike the NBA, NHL, or MLB, the NFL plays a simple 16-game schedule with each team playing one game a week. That lends itself to fairly predictable TV programming. The league splits the Sunday afternoon telecasts by conference: AFC games air on CBS at 1:00 p.m. and 4:05 p.m. ET, and Fox runs the NFC games at 1:00 p.m. and 4:25 p.m. ET.

NBC retains the popular Sunday Night Football broadcast, which kicks off at 8:20 p.m. ET. All you’ll need is an over-the-air digital TV antenna and reasonable proximity to a broadcast tower. You’ll find our top antenna picks here.

This year, 11 of 14 Thursday Night Football broadcasts will be broadcast on Fox and simulcast on the cable-only NFL Network. The league’s flagship channel retains sole ownership of the remaining three games.

That leaves out only the iconic Monday Night Football game on cable-only ESPN, to which you can get access via one of the streaming options below.

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