The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the schedules for the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS (plus nearly everything else), but the NFL still plans to go ahead with its 2020 campaign. The lead-up to the season, however, has been anything but normal. A number of players have opted out, all preseason games have been canceled and training camps opened late, so teams will go right from practice to Week 1 of the regular season.
The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs began their quest to repeat in the season opener last Thursday night, with rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire putting on a show in his debut as the Chiefs took down the Houston Texans 34-20. Sunday saw a host of exciting games, including the Washington Football Team’s comeback win against the Eagles, upsets by the Jaguars and Cardinals, and the first game featuring Tom Brady on the Buccaneers (and his first loss in a new uniform). Monday saw the Steelers take down the Giants and the Titans overcome kicking woes to beat the Broncos in Denver.
Week 2 kicks off Thursday night with a battle between Ohio’s two teams when the Cincinnati Bengals head to Cleveland to take on the Browns. Both teams enter tonight’s contest 0-1, with the Browns getting dismantled by the Ravens and the Bengals coming up just short against the Chargers last Sunday.
Here’s how to watch tonight’s action on the NFL Network.
Joe Burrow and the Bengals will look for their first win on. Thursday night.
Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
How can I watch the NFL without cable?
You stream the 2020 NFL season, no cable required, on any live-TV streaming service that carries channels with live games. Numerous such services offer broadcast networks like CBS, NBC, Fox as well as ESPN, the NFL Network and/or NFL RedZone. (Editor’s note: CNET and CBS are both owned by ViacomCBS.) Exact channels may also vary based on where you live, but the best services for NFL fans are YouTube TV and Fubo TV.
Read more: NFL streaming: Best ways to watch the 2020 football season live without cable
YouTube TV costs $65 a month and includes all the channels NFL fans need: CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN and NFL Network. There’s also an option for RedZone for an extra $11/month. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks are available in your area.
FuboTV costs $60 a month for its Standard plan and includes CBS, Fox and NBC plus ESPN and the NFL Network. An $11-a-month Sports Plus add-on will let you get RedZone, and FuboTV will also stream the Fox Thursday Night Football games in 4K.
Click here to see which local channels you get.
Hulu with Live TV costs $55 a month and includes CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN. Click the “View channels in your area” link on its welcome page to see which local channels are offered in your ZIP code. The NFL Network and RedZone are not available here.
AT&T TV Now’s basic, $55-a-month Plus package includes CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels are available where you live. The NFL Network and RedZone are not available.
Sling TV splits its live NFL options across its $30-a-month Blue plan and $30-a-month Orange plan, which forces NFL fans into a tricky decision or encourages them to spring for both at $45 a month. Sling Blue includes the NFL Network, NBC and Fox as well as the ability to add RedZone through the Sports Extra add-on for $10 per month. Sling Orange includes ESPN.
Sling TV doesn’t offer CBS, but its packages are discounted by $10 for the first month. Enter your address here to see which local channels are available where you live.
CBS All Access costs $6 a month and will let you watch the games being broadcast on your local CBS station on Sundays if you live in one of these 206 markets where the service offers live TV. It makes for a good add-on for Sling TV subscribers, who don’t get CBS.
All of the services above offer free trials, allow you to cancel anytime and require a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our massive streaming services guide.
The NFL will also once again stream 11 games live on Amazon Prime Video and Twitch. The full list of dates and games for that platform are:
Oct. 8: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears
Oct. 15: Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills
Oct. 22: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Oct. 29: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
Nov. 5: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Nov. 12: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
Nov. 19: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
Dec. 3: Dallas Cowboys at Baltimore Ravens
Dec. 10: New England Patriots at Los Angeles Rams
Dec. 17: Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders
Dec. 25: Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
Finally, cord cutters can receive free local CBS, Fox and NBC broadcasts using an over-the-air antenna.
When did the NFL season start?
The NFL regular season began on Thursday, Sept. 10 with the Houston Texans visiting the Kansas City Chiefs. Sunday features 13 games while Monday night offers a doubleheader featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers at the New York Giants followed by the Tennessee Titans at the Denver Broncos to close out Week 1.
Where will games be played?
The current plan is for teams to play their games as scheduled in their respective home stadiums.
Will fans be allowed in?
This is one of the big wildcards. There is no clear answer, with some teams planning to open with fans and some without.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Aug. 17 that the Chiefs plan to host their home opener with 22% capacity at Arrowhead Stadium, which would equate to roughly 16,800 fans. The official reported number for the Sept. 10 opener was 15,895 fans, 21% of Arrowhead’s capacity.
When the NFL season kicks off Thursday night, Sept. 10, with Houston playing at Kansas City, Arrowhead Staduim will be at 22 percent of capacity. Which feels like a big early-season Woj. pic.twitter.com/OT2TmeISeF
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 17, 2020
Other teams, including the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears, had said that they plan to host their respective home openers without fans in the stands in Week 2. This so far seems to be a team-by-team, city-by-city situation that is subject to a lot of change before the games kick-off.
What happened to the preseason?
The NFL canceled the entire 2020 preseason in July, with teams focusing on doing their own training camps to prepare for the upcoming season.
CNET TVs, Streaming and Audio
Get CNET’s comprehensive coverage of home entertainment tech delivered to your inbox.
Will the NFL move some Sunday games to other days?
This seems possible, especially if college football doesn’t happen or is scaled back significantly. The NFL has been rumored to be looking at moving some games to Saturday if college football gets canceled, but this is still very much an unknown. Some of the Power 5 college football conferences still currently plan to play games this fall.
The NFL would potentially need to seek government approval if it did want to move games to Friday or Saturday nights due to Chapter 32 of the United States Code that was designed to keep those nights free from September through December for high school and college football.
Which players are sitting out?
Like other sports, a fair amount of NFL players have opted out of the 2020 season. Here are a few of the notable players not participating this year, with a larger list available at ESPN:
Patrick Chung, S, New England Patriots
Dont’a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots
Marqise Lee, WR, New England Patriots
Marquise Goodwin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Devin Funchess, WR, Green Bay Packers
Geronimo Allison, WR, Detroit Lions
C.J. Mosley, LB, New York Jets
Nate Solder, OT, New York Giants
Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs