The Cheapest Way to Watch the NFL This Year

The cheapest way to watch a buttload of NFL games this year—all of them live—is with a copy of Madden. You don't need an Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or satellite dish to do it, either. Maybe the people behind the deal can't tell you, but I can: This will work.

It bears repeating as the season approaches because I still get "wait, what?" emails, two months after writing about the original deal. It was true then, it's true today, it'll be true when the game releases at the end of the month: You buy Madden NFL 25's "Anniversary Edition" for $100, you get a code that lets you watch DirecTV's Sunday Ticket Max service on a computer or a mobile device.

That's a hundred bucks, yes (and regular edition Madden is $60). But Sunday Ticket Max is $300, and that's if you're already paying for DirecTV service and have a dish stuck on your house. With this, maybe you're not watching on your big screen (unless you can get your device to display on your big screen), but the code gives you all the Sunday afternoon NFL games (except your local team's game). Sunday Ticket Max is also the service tier that offers the Red Zone Channel, which channel surfs the league and finds any game where a team is about to score.

EA Sports went in on this with DirecTV and Amazon back in May, and so Amazon is the only place where the anniversary edition is available. Supposedly the offer is limited to 100,000 copies, but it hasn't sold out yet and 100K should be more than enough to keep selling through to the game's launch on Aug. 27.

Yes, the offer that says the code is intended for folks who don't have access to DirecTV in their area. This is throwaway language mandated by lawyers who read contracts for the league and its network partners. There is no way for DirecTV to tell if you legitimately can access your service if you tell it you can't (which you will be asked to do when you redeem this code.)

Even if you live in a zipcode that has 25 DirecTV contractors within a mile, you could be renting a house whose landlord refuses to let you mount a dish on the roof. DirecTV is legitimately inaccessible to you in such a case, and it's quite common. You could be a sophomore in a dorm or an 86-year-old man in assisted living. Your computer is unable to derive the truth of these circumstances by your zipcode or IP address, and the NSA is not going to tell DirecTV you could subscribe but you're too cheap to do it.

This kind of charade is necessary because the NFL has a bunch of TV contracts, not to mention its own network, that it needs to protect. So even if DirecTV is willing and able to give you its service over a computer or tablet screen without a subscription, if it or EA Sports aggressively promoted that, it might piss off one of the networks that paid zillions for the right to broadcast these same games over the air.

Still, I get emails about this. Can I hook it up to AppleTV? (I don't know. I don't have AppleTV). Is the code good for the PS3 Sunday Ticket app? (No.) Will it work in Canada? (No, offer's good in the U.S. only.) For as much as people scan the fine print for evidence it's all too good to be true, they still miss a lot of things that are easily answered.

Although yesterday I did get one good question I hadn't thought of. A guy asked if he needed either console to get to the code. No, the code will be on a paper insert in the game case, not in some corner of Madden's game menu. So even if you have no Xbox 360 or PS3, you can look on this as $100 to get Sunday Ticket on a computer or mobile device, and sell the disc to GameStop or over half.com for a nice little rebate. It may not be the same as watching it on your big screen TV—unless you're a smart enough guy to get your computer/mobile device's signal onto your big screen TV.

If you're already a subscriber to Sunday Ticket, there doesn't seem to be much value in this. There's a promo code for people who want to sign up for DirecTV, but it's applicable to new subscribers only.

For the PC/Mac support specifications and the list of compatible mobile devices, see here. Note that jailbroken phones and tablets can't use the Sunday Ticket app. Ah-ha! At last we have uncovered the true motive! It's a plot to wipe out jailbroken mobiles!