The Length of the Average NFL Game

NFL Games pic
NFL Games
Image: wsj.com

Kevin Waida, a business and financial planning graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, is a former financial intern at PFS Investments. Outside of his professional activities at the Gustin Golf Course, Kevin Waida spends his time following professional football and competing in fantasy football leagues.

Official American football games consist of four periods of play, or quarters, which are further broken down into two halves. Each quarter lasts 15 minutes, with breaks between quarters and a longer intermission between halves, more commonly known as halftime. While all regulation games run for 60 minutes of play, the actual length of a game can vary widely due to various stoppages.

As recently as 2013, the average National Football League (NFL) game lasted about three hours and 12 minutes. Stoppages occur most frequently when a play ends with an incomplete pass or with the ball carrier being forced out of bounds. In either event, the game clock stops running and the offensive team has 40 seconds to line up and begin another play, at which point the game clock resumes.

Teams can also stop the game clock by calling a timeout. Each timeout is good for 30 seconds, though a timeout may last as long as two minutes to allow for commercials and other media breaks. Additional stoppages include injury timeouts, official timeouts and reviews, and a two minute warning break before the end of the second and fourth quarters.

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