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How Long Is an American Football Game? (NFL & More)

Football dominates the sports scene in the United States. If you’re looking to attend a football game for the first time, perhaps your first Super Bowl, you may be pondering, “How long is a football game?”[1]

Football game duration is different between the NFL and amateur-grade football. On average, it lasts three hours in length but the actual play time is 60 minutes.

What makes the average NFL game so bloated up?

Key Takeaways

  • A typical NFL game lasts 60 minutes, with four 15-minute quarters. However, teams might play slightly past three hours on average.
  • NFL halftime lasts 13 minutes and 30 seconds, taking the 2017 NFL season as a benchmark. 
  • Factors such as penalties, play styles, weather, etc. can affect the game’s real-time.

How long is a game of American football?


American football fans, players, and coaches know that a typical game lasts 60 minutes. However, teams play slightly past three hours on average. In recent years, the longest one was in 2015, when the average NFL game length was 3 hours and 9 minutes. 


The professional football game is divided into four 15-minute quarters. At the elapsing of the first and third quarters, there is a 3-minute break. A 15-minute break follows the first half. 

Image source: USA Today

Pregame events like the national anthem and coin toss occur right before kickoff and last about 10 minutes.

If a game is tied at the end of regulation time, the teams play one sudden-death overtime of 15 minutes in which the team that scores first, wins the game.

How Long Is the NFL Halftime?

Halftime in the NFL lasts 13 minutes and 30 seconds, using the 2017 NFL season as a benchmark. 

One should expect a longer halftime during the Super Bowl, as live entertainment featuring popular celebrities can drag halftime close to 30 minutes.

Regulation and structuring of halftime in the sport have been a cause of concern for the NFL in recent years. This is part of American football’s dedication to keeping the game as fast and exciting as possible to ensure fans keep watching.

Be sure to bring with you a pair of the best binoculars during the gameday so you don’t miss out on the fun. 

How Long Is NFL on TV?

An NFL league game time lasts between 3 hours and 15 minutes to 3 hours and 30 minutes. However, there as exceptions to this situation as every game is distinctive.[2]

An NFL broadcast typically has an introduction where the broadcasters give pregame analysis about the significant players and any special circumstances associated with the game. The broadcaster will then announce for commercials and other breaks before the opening kickoff.

Image source: USA Today

There is also a small postgame broadcast which includes a minute-long recap of the game by the broadcasters in the booth, followed by an on-field interview with the coach or player. When you add the postgame extras and add them to the average length of an NFL football game, the length of the TV broadcast should be 3 hours and 15 minutes and above.

What slows down NFL games?

There are factors that decide the duration of an NFL game. These factors include penalties, style of play, weather conditions, game flow, replay reviews, and broadcast.


Penalties slow down a professional game because it takes time for referees to make the call. In the 2015 season, there was an average of 17.6 penalties per game in the NFL. In comparison, in 2014 was 16.9 per game, while it was 16.6 per game in 2016. Both the 2014 and 2016 seasons had an average game duration that was at least two minutes shorter than 2015.

When a referee throws a penalty flag, the play is blown dead and the referees come together. The head referee then announces the penalty to the stadium spectators. Afterward, the ball is then moved to depict the outcome of the penalty. This process makes the game lasts an extra minute or so.

While penalties ensure that American football is played according to code, it dulls the game flow and hurts the fan experience.


Games that involve teams that like to pass the ball on offense in an average NFL game will normally last longer than clubs that like to run with the ball on offense. 

The reason is that the game clock stops on an incomplete pass. Therefore, games that involve more game clock stoppages than games with an abundance of running plays, will eventually result in a longer game.

The pace of play is also a variable. Some teams like to run most of the play clock-down before snapping the ball, while some teams like to play high-tempo and snap the ball as quickly as possible to try to wear out the defense. Teams that prefer to play clock drain before snapping the ball will play longer games.


Occasionally, there will be games that will be delayed due to inclement weather like a thundercloud, with the stadium threatened by lightning. Extreme snow can or thunderstorms make the football hard to grip and throw. This will cause teams to run with the football a lot. As discussed previously, a run-laden offensive attack results in fewer game stoppages and shortens the overall length of the game.


The value of modern football does not come without encumbrances. In the NFL, certain calls can be reviewed by instant replay if a coach feels that the referee made an incorrect call. Replay review was introduced to the league in 1999. And while this has ensured that the right call is made, it has resulted in longer games.

Game flow

An end-to-end, highly contested game will last longer than an average game. If the score is close late, then the team that is behind will use timeouts to preserve the game clock and get the ball back to score. They also tend to get out of bounds or spike the ball to stop the game clock when they have the ball on offense. This usually adds a full 30 minutes played before the end of the game.


Primetime standalone game action (on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night) lasts a bit longer than regular Sunday games. Professional football games may feature pregame festivities, halftime entertainment or a jersey-retirement ceremony.

The best example is the Super Bowl, which has more commercial breaks and a longer halftime side attraction.

Eleven minutes of action were calculated by the wall street journal a few years ago. The evaluation discovered that an average NFL broadcast spent more time on replays (17 minutes) than live play. The plurality of time ( i.e. 75 minutes) was spent watching players, coaches, and referees mainly loitering on the field.

An average play in the NFL lasts just 4 seconds. The average NFL game comprises 20 commercial breaks with over 100 ads. The Wall Street Journal assessed that commercials gulped up 60 minutes or one-third of the game.


NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has expressed that he doesn’t think NFL games need to be considerably shortened. But we need to continue to take those downtimes out from the clock which is far from entertaining.

In formatting its game structured for TV viewers, lessening the overall number of commercial breaks. They’ve also started regulating the time after an extra point to try to pace up the transition between the extra point and the ensuing kickoff.

The league is also assessing the replay procedure to make it quicker as it can stop the fluency of game flow and draw the excitement out of the teeming crowd.

How Long Is a College Football Game?

Just like pro football games, college football games take over 3 hours to complete. Each play actually lasts less than 5 seconds. Of course, there are four 15-minute timeouts.

The SEC, as part of a national concern, will be implementing a few changes – minor enough that followers may not notice – to save a few minutes off the average time of a college game. Read this article on the best college football helmets ranked. 

How Long Does a Football Game Last in High School?

High school football average game in American football typically lasts between 2 to 2 ½ hours. They consist of four 12-minute timeouts on the clock and halftime in between the second and third quarters. Just like any level of football, the clock does not run continuously for 48 minutes.


The varsity football game clock is comprised of 12 minutes quarters and an additional 10-20 minutes for halftime, while junior varsity football has 10-12 minute quarters (usually 10) and 10-20 minutes for halftime. 

All in all, the final time in game action hinges greatly on how many times they stop the clock.

How Long Is a Youth Football Game?

The commitment required for youth American football might be a bit overwhelming for parents. Just like any level of football, there are four 8-minute or 10-minute quarters as per age. There are regular starts and stops, so the games do not necessarily last the allotted time per quarter.

Coaches usually set weekly game action that lasts anywhere between 1 and 2 hours on average. In addition, there are usually 3 to 4 practices that will last for 90 minutes to 2 hours or more. 

Finding the right football for your practice? Check out our top recommendation for durable footballs.

You may also like to check out our football gear reviews:


  1. How Long is an NFL game? Retrieved from
  2. How Much Time Is Played During a Football Game? Retrieved from
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