This weekend, it’s basically Christmas for millions of pro football fans in America.
That’s because Sunday marks the opening day for yet another season of NFL football. The 2014-15 campaign actually started on Thursday, when the defending champion Seahawks crushed Green Bay in front of another raucous crowd in Seattle. But the 30 other teams will make their debut tomorrow.
There are plenty of stories to watch this year. Will the Hawks go Beast Mode and win another Lombardi Trophy? Is Peyton Manning going to play like he’s 25 years old again? Can Johnny Football live up to the hype?
You’ll also notice lots of new technology on the field this season, as the NFL highlighted on Wednesday in Seattle. Thanks to a partnership it inked with Microsoft in May 2013, NFL players and coaches will be using Microsoft’s Surface tablet on the sidelines in between possessions. Meant to replace the traditional black-and-white printed papers, the device will provide photos of recent plays that help players and coaches figure out what was going on in previous possessions.
Some players will also wear shoulder pads with RFID tags inside their shoulder pads, which will allow the NFL to record real-time position data and information related to acceleration, speed, routes, and total distance run.
There’s also neat technology off the field that fans can take advantage of, from apps to streaming game feeds to Twitter. We’ve rounded up some football-related tech tools and apps that may help bolster your NFL viewing experience this season.
There are a number of NFL-related apps in the marketplace, and some are really worth pointing out. One is a new app from the NFL called NFL Now, which is largely a video hub for all things NFL. Available as a free or paid app, NFL Now features instant highlights, behind-the-scenes content, historic NFL Films footage, and much more.
“There’s never been a deeper opportunity for you to get into our content and to our video, and to experience it the way you want to experience it, the way you want to do it, when you want to do it, and on whatever platform you’re on,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at an event in Seattle on Wednesday. “We’re excited about that.”
The NFL also has NFL Mobile, which is great for catching up on the latest highlights, news, statistics, and standings. ESPN ScoreCenter is also another good one for keeping up with scores and news. In addition, Microsoft has a nice NFL App for the Xbox One and Windows 8. Other favorites include Bleacher Report’s Team Stream, Fanzo, Yahoo Sports, and Fox Sports Mobile.
If you don’t have access to a TV but can get online, there are a handful of ways to watch NFL games.
If you’re willing to pony up some dollars, NFL Sunday Ticket is your best option. For $330, the DirectTV program lets you stream every out-of-market game to your mobile devices.
Then there’s Verizon, which is now allowing its “More Everything” customers to watch live NFL games from their mobile devices without paying a $5 per month fee that was removed this year. Verizon’s NFL Mobile also features access to the NFL Network.
Meanwhile, FOX announced on Wednesday that it will stream 101 games — 97 in the regular season, four in the playoffs — this year via its Fox Sports Go app. However, viewers will need a cable subscription to certain cable services and games will also be restricted to those that are in your market. Fans will also not be able to stream games on mobile phones due to league restrictions, but laptops and tablets are good to go.
Every Sunday night, NBC will be streaming its weekly game online for free and does not require a cable subscription. You can check out that feed here.
For Monday Night Football, fans can view the ESPN stream here, but will need a cable subscription.
If you happen to miss a live broadcast, the NFL has a way to stream already-played games with its Game Rewind program. It’ll cost you $70 to stream each game this season — including playoffs and the Super Bowl — or you can pay $30 for access to just one team’s replays.
There are a few other options, particularly for those that don’t have cable. You can try something like Aereo, which charges a small fee to stream live TV.
Finally, there’s NFL Game Pass, which lets viewers from outside the U.S. and Canada stream every game in exchange for a subscription fee. Although a bit risky, you can try using a VPN to make it appear like you’re not in the U.S. or Canada. Some popular VPNs include Hola, TunnelBear, or Cloak to get around the block. But if you’re going to pay for a streaming service, I’d recommend just going with Sunday Ticket.
Twitter lists are a great way to follow a pre-selected group of Twitter accounts, and may become more popular with Twitter possibly curating user timelines in the near future.
For example, ESPN has a decent NFL-specific list here. If you’re interested in the Seahawks, I put together this list here that should keep you up-to-date with everything related to the defending Super Bowl champs. You can also create your own Twitter lists tailored to your specific NFL interests. Head to your Lists page to create a new group.
Earlier this week, Sporting News compiled a nice “must-follow on Twitter” group here, and Mashable did something similar here. Bleacher Report also has a good round-up of NFL sportswriters to follow here.
There’s nothing like actually being at an NFL game and fans have a number of resources online to find good deals on tickets — particularly if you’re willing to wait until the last second to purchase. There are the popular ones — NFL Ticket Exchange, StubHub, Craigslist — but lesser-known options include SeatGeek, Vivid Seats, Cheap Tickets, RazorGator, and TickPick.