The average NFL game takes 3 hours and twelve minutes in real-time. The game is broken down into four fifteen-minute quarters. Stoppages in the game clock make this game much longer.
On top of stopping the game clock between plays, there are also stoppages between quarters.
The NFL halftime is thirteen minutes in total. There are also two-minute breaks at the end of the first and third quarters.
NFL games are shorter than college football games which last three hours and twenty-four minutes on average. This is about twelve minutes longer than an average NFL game.
Keep in mind NFL games are often longer when the game takes place in prime time. This is due to increased commercial breaks.
How long is the average play in the NFL?
The average play in the NFL roughly is 6.39 seconds.
In the NFL there is an average of 122.7 plays per game. We calculated this by dividing the total number of offensive plays divided by the number of games in a season.
According to Forbes there are roughly eleven to fifteen minutes of action in each NFL game. Action is the time when you are watching a live play on the field.
If we take the middle number of the range from Forbes of thirteen minutes it is equal to 1,080 seconds of action in an NFL game. Once you divide that by the 122 plays a game you get 6.39 seconds per play.
How long is quarter in the NFL
A quarter in the NFL is fourty four minutes long in real-time. In game time each quarter is fifteen minutes in length.
We stated earlier in the article that an NFL game is on average three hours and twelve minutes long.
We also know there is twelve-minute halftime as well as four minutes of breaks between quarters. This gives us seventeen total minutes of breaks between quarters
Taking away time for breaks leaves us with an NFL game time of two hours and fifty-six minutes.
Divide this into four quarters and you get forty-four minutes per quarter in the NFL.
What makes NFL games so long?
Now that you know how long NFL games are you may be wondering why they take so long. After all these games are considerably longer than the one hour of game time.
Stoppages between plays
The main reason the NFL games are so long is that the game clock is often stopped between plays. The game clock only continues to run between plays if a player is tackled in bounds.
If a pass goes incomplete the clock will be stopped until the start of the next play. Additionally, a player travelling out of bounds is often going to stop the clock.
If a player travels out of bounds in the final two minutes of the first half or the final five minutes of the game the clock will be stopped.
When a player travels out of bounds at any other point in the game the clock is stopped until the ball is placed by the referee for the next play.
All these stoppages between plays add up. And with over one hundred plays per game NFL games can get quite long.
What makes the fourth quarter so long in football?
When watching football games you may notice fourth quarters seem to be much longer than others. This is especially true when there are five minutes left in a game and it ends up taking twenty minutes.
The reason fourth quarters are so long is due to timeouts. Timeouts can be used in football to stop the clock. The team will get a thirty-second break but they will also stop the clock from running in between plays.
When late in a game teams can become quite conservative with the time left in the game. They will start making play calls that will only take a couple of seconds to execute.
They will also look to get players the ball near the sideline so they are able to get out of bounds to stop the clock. This can really stretch out a drive down the field with very little time coming off the game clock.
Teams will often save their timeouts until the end of the game. This results in the fourth quarter being the longest of all quarters.