If you want to watch NFL football in 2023, but you don't want to pay anything, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that there are a ton of games you can watch for nothing. The bad news is you can't watch every game. And even if you want to pay, different games are spread over a number of different services, so it can be confusing to figure out how to watch the specific games you want to see.
This season, NFL games will be broadcast or streamed on Fox, CBS, ESPN, NBC, Amazon Prime Video, and The NFL Network, but which games you can watch for free generally depends on where you live. If you're into your local team, you'll be able to catch all or most of their games, but if you're a fan of a non-local team, it's possible to see all of their games, but it might not be cheap.
How to watch NFL football for free without cable or a streaming service
Unless you're super-hardcore or a fan of a distant team, you can watch a ton of NFL football for nothing, as long as you have a digital TV antenna. This will let you catch almost all regional games that you'd be able to see if you had cable, without paying for any streaming service—as long as you live close enough to the stations broadcasting the games to tune in.
For the most part, Sunday AFC games will be shown on CBS and Sunday NFC games will be on Fox. (Although this could change later in the season, as the NFL could change which games are nationally broadcast.) Sunday night games will be shown on NBC.
Watch any NFL game you want at a sports bar
At the risk of providing the most obvious advice ever, you're probably close enough to a sports bar to watch any game you want for the price of a beer and some chicken wings. Give them a call before you stop by and ask whether they'll have a screen dedicated to the game you want to see.
Another bar-based option: If you're a fan of a team that isn't local to your area, there might be a bar or restaurant dedicated to sports-refugees like yourself that will show all of that team's games. Search it up on Google and stop by on Sunday—you might make some new friends as a bonus.
Streaming services for NFL Football
That about covers the free options, but if you don't mind shelling out a little money, you can watch every NFL game, although it gets a little complicated.
Sling is the most budget-conscious NFL Football streaming service, but it's missing a ton of games. Sling offers two services: Sling Orange and Sling Blue. Both are $40 a month or you can combine them for $55. Blue offers the NFL Network, Fox, and NBC games (NFC Sunday afternoon games, Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football) and Orange offers ESPN's games. You cannot watch NFC games (CBS) through Sling.
Hulu + Live TV, Fubo, and YouTube TV all have subscription tiers that let you watch local games from Fox and CBS, NBC's Sunday night game, and NFL Network games, but none let you watch out-of-region football or Thursday night football. These streaming services are very much like cable, and while the football packages are the same, the other channels and content offered differ from service to service.
All three of these options offer NFL Redzone as an add-on for around $10 a month. Redzone that lets you watch every touchdown from every game.
A Paramount Plus subscription gives you access to local games that are broadcast on CBS for $5.99 a month.
For a $5.99 a month subscription, you'll be able to watch Sunday Night Football games.
Amazon Prime is the only way you can watch Thursday Night Football games on your TV, although these are the only games you'll be able to watch through the service. An Amazon Prime Video membership is $8.99 a month, but the service is included as part of Amazon Prime's $14.99 per month; $139 per year price, which also gives you free shipping on Amazon items.
The newly-launched NFL+ service costs $6.99 a month and lets you watch every regional game and the elusive Thursday night game, but it comes with a huge catch: You can only stream to your mobile device and you cannot cast to your television.
If you want to watch NFL games from non-local teams, NFL Sunday Ticket is the only (legal) option for you. But it's not cheap. Even the most inexpensive purchase option is $349 for the season as an add-on with YouTube TV, which already costs $72.99 a month. But if you add an Amazon Prime sub, you've got every single NFL game at your fingertips.
Seriously, just get a digital antenna
If you've read the above and you're thinking, “This is really complicated. I just want to watch a damn football game,” I agree. But installing a digital antenna is simple. It won't show every game, but it will show most of them. Also: it's free, and your team's Monday Night Football appearance will be playing at the bar down the street, anyway.
This post was updated to reflect the 2023 NFL football season.