How can I tell what NFL football is on TV in my area?

Dear Sports Fan,

How can I tell what NFL football is on TV in my area? Each week there are a whole bunch of games on but I’m never quite sure what I’m going to be able to get at home on my television.


Dear Tracy,

The NFL schedule is a tricky beast each week. If you’re a big football fan, like I am, you need to know what’s going to be on television so you can decide whether to stay home and watch, or if the best games aren’t on locally, to go to a bar where they pay to get all the games. If you’re a moderate fan of the NFL, probably the healthiest choice anyway, you need to know what your options are so you can decide what game to watch and know what channel it’s going to be on. If you’re not a fan at all, the information can still be useful if you live with a fan. Luckily, there is an amazing resource for NFL football TV schedules. It’s called 506 Sports! I am a complete and utter fanboy of their coverage of NFL television and probably go to their site four or five times a week during football season. If you become a convert, you can follow the site on Twitter or the site’s creator, JP Kirby.

During my Pitch that Game podcast last week, I tried to use 506 Sports’ NFL guide with my guest and we ended up talking for a while about exactly what each chart and map meant and how to best use them to figure out exactly what NFL football is on TV in your area each week. Here is a step by step guide.

The quick explanation for how to tell what NFL football is on TV in your area using 506 Sports

Go to the 506 Sports NFL table. Click on the correct number week to get to a set of maps. Look at your part of the country in each map. You will usually have three options, two on CBS and one on Fox or visa versa. The early game is at 1 p.m. ET. The late game is at 4:05 or 4:30 p.m. ET. To tell what time the game in the map labeled CBS Single or Fox single is, go back to the table.

How to use the 506 Sports NFL table

The first thing you’ll see when you go to 506 Sports’ NFL page is a giant table.


506 Sports NFL Table

This table is divided into major horizontal rows that correspond to each week in the NFL season. The weeks are labeled primarily by their number, but there’s also a helpful date which helps you identify which week you want to focus on. The date is the Sunday of the week. To make things a little easier to follow, the table alternates light and medium gray at the week level. Find the current week. We’re in Week 3 right now, so that’s the one we’ll use for our example.

It’s unintuitive, but let’s start with the three columns on the far right of the table. Each one of these columns (with a few exceptions) will have one and only one game in it. That’s because each column corresponds to a day or time when the NFL usually only schedules a single game. The first of these three columns is for the Thursday night game, the middle for the Sunday night game, and the right most for the Monday night game. All of these games are televised nationally. ESPN owns Monday night, NBC, Sunday night, and Thursday is shared by several networks, so the network is included in the box. All of these games start around 8:30 p.m.

Now we’re ready (I hope) to tackle the two columns on the left. These columns are labeled with a network name, not a day of the week. Every game in both columns starts on Sunday afternoon, either at 1 p.m. ET or 4:05 or 4:30 p.m. ET. The 1 p.m. games are referred to as early games and the 4:05/4:30 games are called late games. The early and late time slots are shown as mini-rows within the weekly row. CBS and Fox divide these games between themselves in a complex, hotly negotiated way. Luckily, we don’t need to understand that. What we do need to know are a couple basic principles. The schedule is set up so that ideally, you should be able to see three games on Fox and CBS in your area each Sunday afternoon. The stations alternate weekends so that one weekend Fox will get to show games in both time slots while CBS shows games in only one and the next weekend will be the opposite. The second principle is that each team’s home games should be shown without competition in their area of the country. This second principle can sometimes override the first and limit the options from three to two.

Okay. Now we’re ready to see the maps and figure out exactly what is happening in your part of the country.

How to use the 506 Sports NFL maps

When you click on a week’s number on the 506 Sports NFL table, you get to a page with three maps. This is where the rubber hits the road. Each map corresponds to a channel and time slot. CBS or Fox, early or late. On a weekend when CBS has the double-header, like this one, there will be a CBS Early and a CBS Late map above a third Fox Single map. The schedulers have attempted to show everyone in the country two games on CBS at 1:00 p.m. ET AND 4:05 or 4:30 p.m. ET and one on Fox at either 1 p.m. ET OR 4:05 or 4:30 p.m. ET.

Within each map, the games in that time and channel are shown in a color-coded key below the map and the areas where they will be shown on TV are filled in with the corresponding color on the map. Most of this will probably make geographic sense.

CBS Early

For example, in the top map, the CBS Early map, we see that the New England vs. Miami game will be shown in all of New England and Florida. Likewise, the yellow Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens game will be shown in two little puddles around Cincinnati and Baltimore. Some things make less sense, like the strip of land in Texas which has to suffer through the Oakland Raiders vs. Cleveland Browns game or why most of Oregon gets the Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans game. Why? Who knows?

An important color to track on these maps is grey. In the first map, the CBS early map, New York City and its surroundings are grayed out. This means they will not get any early game on CBS, even though CBS is the channel with the double-header that day. When this happens, jump down to the bottom map, the Fox single map, and the reason should become clear. Fox has the rights to the New York Jets vs. Philadelphia Eagles game which, as we know from the table, is an early game. The second principle, that teams’ home games deserve to be shown in their area without competition, takes precedence. The Jets game must be shown on Fox at 1 p.m., so CBS cannot provide an alternative to that market. The same principle applies to the other grey areas on the first map: Dallas, Houston, and Charlotte each host early home games on Fox.

Thanks so much for reading,
Ezra Fischer

2015 in the United States of Sports: Interactive

For the last week or two, I’ve been slowly adding features to the 2015 in the United States of Sports feature. First I designed a map and offered a free paper or .pdf copy in exchange for an email subscription. That deal is still going, by the way! Then I added a table showing all 51 (with Washington D.C.) events in a table view in order of date. This is an easier, albeit less beautiful, way of perusing the sporting events. Over my holiday vacation last week, I worked on my newest addition to the map, which I am releasing in this post. It’s an interactive Google map that looks just like the original map, but it’s interactive! Click on each of the states to see its event, date, and sport. As I preview all 51 events over the next year, I will add a link to the post in this interactive map. This  interactive map will slowly become your guide to the biggest sporting events in each state during 2015!

Here’s the map:

Just watch out, unlike on the original, I was unable to transplant Alaska and Hawaii into the missing Mexican mainland. They are in their geo-normative positions in the interactive map.

The deal — get a free copy

If you’d like a paper or .pdf copy of the map, please subscribe to our email list and I will mail you one.


More to come

Keep your eyes peeled to this channel — by the end of New Year’s Day, three (three!) states’ biggest sporting event of 2015 will be in the rear-view mirror. I’ll have a preview of the Rose Bowl (California), Sugar Bowl (Louisiana), and Winter Classic (Washington D.C.) written and added to the interactive map by the time the ball drops on New Year’s Eve!

Thanks for reading,
Ezra Fischer

2015 in the United States of Sports

With the new year approaching, I wanted to do something to celebrate the last year and look forward to 2015 with you all.

2014 has been an enormous year in sports and also for Dear Sports Fan. The year began with the NFL playoffs and a decisive Super Bowl win by the deserving Seattle Seahawks. The day after the big game, I took a train to John F. Kennedy airport, where I, like almost everyone who had been to the Super Bowl in New Jersey, waited while our planes were delayed by a snow storm. It was actually a pretty funny sight. All the gates to the Denver area were full of depressed people wearing orange and the gates to the West Coast were packed full of hung-over but happy fans wearing neon green. I flew off to Barcelona where I eventually and slowly made my way over to Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics. In Russia, I got the chance to watch a bunch of men’s and women’s ice hockey plus some speed skating, curling, and cross-country skiing. It was all good, even when the United States lost to Canada 1-0 in the semifinals of the men’s Ice Hockey. Just a few months later, the nation’s imagination was captured by the most exciting World Cup in my memory. The United States Men’s National team did the country proud, more by generating bizarrely exciting soccer games than by winning, but still. The United States found itself in the throes of a soccer passion that mimicked, if not met the rest of the world’s normal experience. The summer was notable in the sports world for LeBron James deciding to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, a tectonic shift in the power dynamics of the NBA. For Dear Sports Fan, and for myself, the biggest move of the summer was my decision to leave my job of seven and a half years and throw myself into working on Dear Sports Fan full-time. Since then it’s been a roller-coaster ride. The Kansas City Royals rode their way, bunting and bunting some more, to the World Series before falling to the San Francisco Giants. The focus of the NFL season blurred when off-season issues like domestic abuse, child abuse, institutional idiocy, and the long-term effects of concussions overwhelmed the normal focus on football, fantasy football, and gambling. Like these issues made football seem like an insignificant side-show, so the great cultural issue of police brutality and our legal system’s inability to properly deal with it made sports in general seem like an insignificant side-show.

That’s where we are as we begin to hurtle towards 2015. 2015 is a year of great promise and plentiful sports. To celebrate it with you all, I’ve created a map with the biggest sporting event in each state in 2015 labeled. The events were chosen by me, so your results may vary of course, but I’ll be happy to hear from you with all disputes of import. The events vary in size and national stature, of course. Minnesota may not have anything to match the national profile of Arizona’s Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean their Star of the North Games in June are anything to sneeze at. In fact, with four to six thousand athletes competing in around twenty sports, the Star of the North Games are a massive undertaking. The sports range from the expected big four of football, baseball, basketball, and hockey, to more unusual events like New Jersey’s international Fistball competition and Delaware’s World Championship of Punkin’ Chunkin’ where teams compete to build the best pumpkin throwing machines.

The United States is truly a great sporting nation and 2015’s sports will truly range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Enjoy them all year with a copy of Dear Sports Fan’s 2015 in the United States of Sports map. If you’d like a copy of the map, sign up for our email list and I will send you either a link to download a high quality .pdf or mail an actual physical copy to your home or office! If you’re already a subscriber and want a map, send me an email to

Sign up for the Dear Sports Fan email list:

Dear Sports Fan 2015 Map

Thanks for the support,
Ezra Fischer