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Primed for pigskin: The best ways to watch football this season (with or without cable)

Michael Ansaldo | Aug. 26, 2016
Whether you’re a cord cutter or a pay-TV addict, we’ll show you all the ways you can watch this season’s bone-crunching action on screens of any size.

Now that billion-dollar broadcast deals make football more profitable in the living room than in the stadium, the NFL is at least entertaining the idea of jettisoning its archaic policy. After the season, it will again evaluate the suspension’s impact and decide whether or not to do away with blackouts permanently. Stay tuned.

Cable and satellite TV

You can catch almost every down your home team plays this season just watching over-the-air broadcasts; but for expanded offerings, cable and satellite are still the way to go.

ESPN enters its 11th season broadcasting the iconic Monday Night Football game (it took it over from ABC in 2006), which kicks off at 8:30 p.m. ET. For the season opener, however, the cable network will be broadcasting a double-header, with the first game starting at 7:10 p.m. ET and the second at 10:20 p.m. ET.

NFL Sunday Ticket 
Hardcore football fans who subscribe to DirecTV might be interested in the service’s NFL Sunday Ticket option.

In addition to the NFL Network, many pay-TV providers continue to offer NFL’s RedZone Channel. Hosted by Scott Hanson and existing only for about a seven-hour window each Sunday, RedZone airs nothing but the day’s highlights (mostly touchdowns, as the name suggests) at a frenetic pace that perfectly evokes the adrenaline rush of a game-winning drive.

Both NFL Network and the RedZone Channel are available online as well. You can access them if you’re a cable subscriber and your cable company is listed among the providers. That caveat leaves out Comcast subscribers—the company still isn’t on the list of provider participants despite the fact that it continues to offer both channels in its cable packages.

Among the hardest-core football fans, NFL Sunday Ticket, which gives you access to every regular-season Sunday afternoon out-of-market game, is as coveted a prize as the Lombardi Trophy. However, it remains the exclusive property of DirecTV.

But if you’re a DirecTV subscriber willing to shell out around $250 on top of your regular subscription fee, you can get all of 2016’s out-of-market Sunday games plus the Mix Channel, which lets you watch four or eight live games on a single channel, and its Player Tracker, a fantasy-football owner’s dream that lets you keep tabs on up to 20 players.

DirecTV Game Mix 
DirectTV’s Mix Channel lets you watch four or eight live games on a single channel.

Or for about $100 more, you can get the NFL Sunday Ticket Max, which throws in NFL RedZone Channel, Direct Fantasy Zone (a channel devoted entirely to fantasy football), Short Cuts (entire games condensed into 30-minute commercial-free replays), and the ability to stream live games through the NFL Sunday Ticket app.


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