The National Football League (NFL) maintains its status as a billion dollar business partially through its ability to heavily regulate its programming through partnerships with major television networks. Allowing free access to live games online would mean giving up so much potential revenue. Thus, there are very few free options for live programming that are approved by the NFL. In fact, only NBC streams live games online without a cable subscription.
However, people with paid subscriptions to various programming options have ways to use that subscription online to view games for free on computers, tablets and smartphones.
Watch for Free on NBC
NBC is the only network broadcasting NFL games that streams the game live online without a cable or satellite subscription. NBC currently shows the Sunday Night Football game. To view the game on your computer, first ensure that you have internet access. Then visit http://www.nbcsports.com and click on the "NBC Sports Live Extra" button in the top right.
Once the page loads, you should be on the "Watch Now" tab. Scroll down to see the list of live programming and click on the Sunday Night Football game. The video should stream automatically.
To watch NBC Sports on your tablet or smartphone via the NBC Sports Live Extra app, you will need a subscription to a participating cable or satellite provider. If you have that, download the free NBC Sports Live Extra app for iOS or Android devices.
Once you open the app, you will be required to verify your satellite or cable provider subscription. When you have verified it successfully, you should see a list of live programming. Select the Sunday Night Football game and enjoy.
Use Your Paid Subscription to ESPN
Ensure that you have a strong internet connection and a cable or satellite subscription plan that includes ESPN.
Once you have verified your subscription with a cable or satellite provider, you will see a list of live programs on the various ESPN networks. Click on the game you would like to view and enjoy.
You can also watch NFL Games on your tablet or smartphone via the Watch ESPN app, available for iOS and Android devices. Simply download the app, verify your subscription with your satellite or cable provider, and choose the game you would like to watch.
Sign up for NFL Pre-Season Live
You can view all preseason games by purchasing a subscription to NFL Pre-Season Live. This does not require you to have a cable or satellite provider. First visit http://preseason.nfl.com to purchase a subscription to the service.
Once you have a subscription, simply visit http://preseason.nfl.com and log in to view any game.
You can also view pre-season games on your tablet or smartphone by downloading the NFL pre-season app for iOS and Android devices.
Upgrade to NFL Sunday Ticket Max
DirecTV subscribers can add NFL Sunday Ticket Max to their package for access to every NFL game on their computer, smartphone or tablet. Current DirecTV subscribers should already have NFL Sunday Ticket on their TV, but will need to upgrade in order to watch these games online. Call DirecTV or visit http://www.directv.com/nflsundayticket to learn more and purchase the larger package.
Once purchased, you can log in with your DirecTV user name and password to watch games on your computer.
You can also watch games through your tablet, smartphone or gaming console by downloading the NFL Sunday Ticket app.
Log in to NFL Network and NFL RedZone
The NFL Network and RedZone Channel are included in many cable and satellite packages. NFL Network broadcasts a select number of full games while NFL RedZone switches between live concurrent games during moments that teams have a high possibility of making a scoring play, as well as scoring plays that have already happened. If you have a subscription that has either option, you need only visit http://nflonline.nfl.com to log in through your cable or satellite provider and start watching games.
Once logged in, click on the "Launch" button to bring up the streaming window.
To view either of these channels, just download the NFL Network and/or NFL RedZone app. You will be able to stream live programming once you've verified your subscription.
Things You'll Need
Computer, Tablet or Smartphone
Satellite or Cable Provider
Streaming high quality video can take a lot of battery power, and live games take a few hours. Be sure that your devices either have plenty or battery life or are plugged into a power source.
An internet search may direct you to various sites that allow you to stream live games for free that are not listed in this article. These sites are not affiliated with the NFL in any way. Video from these sites are often full of ads, pop-ups, or even viruses. The video quality and user experience may also be quite poor. Even if you are able to stream games from these sites, there is no guarantee that your source is legal.