How Long are NFL Games?

how long are nfl games

Last updated on October 28th, 2023 at 09:19 am

NFL games are sixty minutes of game time broken into four 15-minute quarters that take close to three hours to complete. Each quarter is 15 minutes of game clock time, which stops multiple times for various reasons. Some reasons for the clock stopping include if one team scores, if the ball goes out of bounds or is an incomplete pass, or if an injury occurs on the field. If a game is in a tie after the fourth quarter, then the game moves into overtime, which is ten minutes long.


So, why do NFL games take about three hours to complete? What adds to the time for NFL games to complete? Why do playoff football games take longer to complete than regular season games? What is the longest NFL game in history? What are some ways the NFL can help speed up games?


Here is the complete breakdown of how long NFL games are.


Why Do NFL Games Take About Three Hours to Complete?

how long are nfl games

NFL games take about three hours to complete for numerous reasons. First, whenever there is a change in procession, the clock stops. That means the clock stops anytime there is a punt, a fumble, a touchdown, a field goal, or something else that causes a change in what team is on offense. According to Johnny Holland, each NFL team tends to have 12 possessions during an average game, which means 24 times the clock will stop.


Second, TV commercial breaks are more common in the NFL. You can expect more commercial breaks when a game is on primetime, like the 4:00 PM slot or Sunday Night Football. Not only can you expect more commercial breaks, but the commercials are longer than the 1:00 PM slot. Throw in if the game is a playoff game, and you can expect the game to take a bit longer to complete due to the commercials.


Third, any challenge or injury during a game will stop the clock. During a challenge, the head coach will throw the red flag to challenge a certain play on the field. When that occurs, the referees need to get together and watch the video replay to see the correct call. When there is an injury on the field, the game clock will stop to address that issue on the field.


What Also Adds to the Time of American Football Games?

what adds to the time of a regular american football game

There are numerous reasons why the game clock stops running during an NFL football game. Below are some of the most common reasons for clock stoppages occurring during an average NFL season game.


  • The kickoff to one team usually follows a quick commercial break.


  • An incomplete pass from the quarterback to their target will stop the clock.


  • A touchdown and or field goal that allows the team to celebrate for a bit in the end zone


  • Calling a timeout


  • When a team commits a penalty (like offsides, pass interference, or too many players on the field) which needs the referee stops a play.


  • Instant replay reviews


  • Halftime breaks between the first half and the second half.


  • Punts that stop the clock after the receiving team runs out of bounds are tackled or score a touchdown.


  • The two-minute warning stops the clock, which takes place during the second and fourth quarters of a football game.


  • One team refuses to snap the ball till the last possible second.


Why Do Playoff Games Take Longer to Complete?

what adds to the time of nfl playoff games

Like regular season football games, the playoffs and especially the Superbowl add even more time to the game to complete. The primary reason why playoff games are longer than regular-season games is commercials. In addition, the halftime show during the Superbowl adds additional time to the game’s conclusion.


What is the Longest National Football League Game?

What is the Longest National Football League Game

The longest American Football Game occurred in 1971 against the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. The game took 82 minutes of game time to reach a winner, which the Dolphins eventually won. All in all, the game took seven hours and eight minutes to complete. 


What are Some Ways to Potentially Speed up NFL Games?

what are ways the nfl is speeding up the game

NFL fan theories have become a widespread discussion between friends on ways to speed up the game. Whether or not the NFL implements any of these remains to be seen, but speeding up the action is a popular discussion. Here are some ideas you will hear from fans on ways to speed up the action during games.


  • Speed up instant replays via reviews.


  • Reducing the 40-second snap clock to something else. Reducing the 40 seconds to something like 30 seconds could result in more action throughout the game.


  • Keeping the play clock running on incomplete passes and or plays.


  • Reduce the number of challenges and or timeouts a team can call.


  • Limiting the number of commercials between plays. Another option is to use a double box, which allows the action to be on one screen while a commercial.


Conclusion: How Long are NFL Games?

how long are nfl games summary

In conclusion, the average NFL game takes over three hours to complete the 60 minutes of gameplay. It takes three hours to complete because there are many reasons why the game clock stops during the match. The clock stops when an injury occurs, after one team scores, the change in possession, etc. The clock stopping during these moments and mandatory TV commercial breaks between stops add to the time it takes to complete an NFL game.


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