How Long Do NFL Games Last?

How Long Do NFL Games Last

NFL games draw thousands of attendees and are viewed by millions at home. These games are big events for any football enthusiast, and it’s not uncommon for people to plan their entire day around a game.

If you’re looking to host an NFL viewing party or attend a game in the near future, you might be wondering, “How long do NFL games last?”. The answer may vary depending on how you view a game’s length. Let’s look at the average duration of an NFL game and the different factors that affect its total length.

How Long Does the Action Last in an Average NFL Game?

American football is a fast-paced sport that keeps players on their toes. Viewers are often exhilarated by the bursts of energy that characterize each play once the game clock starts running. You may be surprised to learn these action intervals add up to a total playtime of only 11 minutes.

In-stadium viewers overestimate this playtime due to the way plays are spaced out. People viewing that game at home may also have an inaccurate perception of the total playtime because of the time taken up by action replays on NFL. It is estimated that the average NFL game spends 17 minutes showing replays, so this may lead viewers to believe the total action playtime is around 28 minutes.

How Long Does an NFL Game Actually Last?

So how long is the average NFL game? Let’s break down each component between the start and end of a typical game.

NFL games have an official length of one hour, broken up into four 15-minute rounds. These rounds do not proceed in non-stop succession. Instead, there is a 3-minute gap between the end of one round and the start of another. There is also a break between the second and third quarters of a game, adding to the total game time.

The first half’s sequence is as follows:

  • First-quarter: 15 minutes
  • Break: 3 minutes
  • Second-quarter: 15 minutes

This means the first half of a game officially lasts 33 minutes. This is followed by the Halftime break that lasts an average of around 13 minutes and 30 seconds. However, NFL Super Bowl games are known to have much longer halftime breaks to accommodate live performances and the field-readying process.

The average Super Bowl Halftime lasts upwards of 30 minutes, so it’s not uncommon for one hour to elapse between the start of the first half and the second half. The second half’s sequence is as follows:

  • Third-quarter: 15 minutes
  • Break: 3 minutes
  • Fourth-quarter: 15 minutes

So how long does a NFL game last? Once the length of each quarter, break, and halftime is factored in, the game lasts around 1 hour and 36 minutes. When you factor in the opening and closing ceremonies, referee decisions, and injuries, the average game length becomes approximately 3 hours and 7 minutes.

How Does Overtime Extend the Length of a Football Game?

If both teams have the same score by the end of the fourth quarter, the game goes into overtime. This overtime period’s length varies depending on the match’s nature.

If the game counts as an ordinary NFL season game, there will be only one overtime period lasting 10 minutes. However, if a game is part of the NFL playoffs, the overtime will be played in 15-minute intervals until one team has scored. This means a playoff game’s overtime could potentially last for over an hour.

Are College Football Games Longer than NFL Games?

College football games last longer than NFL games on average. Suppose NFL games last around 3 hours and 7 minutes, college football games last around 3 hours and 24 minutes. There are many reasons for this 17-minute difference. This includes:

First Downs

NFL games typically do not stop their game clock when the first down is gained. However, college football games do stop their game clock when this is achieved. The game clock then resumes once the referee has set the ball.


As mentioned earlier, the average NFL halftime length during regular-season games is 13 minutes and 30 seconds. The average halftime length for college football games is around 20 minutes.

Additional Scoring

College football teams tend to score more points than their NFL counterparts. This higher score means teams have more untimed downs, added kickoffs, and commercial breaks. The combination of these factors may add around 10 minutes to the average college football game.

What was the Shortest NFL Game?

You might be wondering what the shortest game in the NFL’s history is. It should come as no surprise that the shortest NFL games were all regular-season games.

The title of the shortest NFL game goes to the 1996 match between the San Diego Chargers and the Indianapolis Colts. This game lasted a total of 2 hours and 26 minutes. The Chargers beat the Colts, with the final scoreboard resting at 26-19.

What was the Longest NFL Game?

The longest game in NFL history was a Divisional playoff match featuring the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs on December 25th, 1971. The game clock lasted a whopping 82 minutes and 40 seconds. There is no record of the game’s total duration; however, it likely lasted longer than three and a half hours.

Will Football Games Get Longer in the Future?

Football games are likely to get longer in the future. This is due to the addition of action replays during broadcasts and the inclusion of penalty challenges. However, many football enthusiasts would welcome longer games as they help keep the football spirit alive.

America’s favorite pastime isn’t going anywhere, so find a comfortable spot on the couch and get ready to see some on-field action.


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