How Many Minutes of Game Play Does the Average NFL Game Have?

By  | 
Tony Maples Photography


According to an article from Quartz, the actual amount of time a ball is in play in the average NFL game is 11 minutes. That might strike any Texas fan in the heart, but the honest truth is that for a large share of the year, the National Football League (NFL) has us mesmerized and glued to our armchairs or barstools for a considerable amount of time. We cheer for the Cowboys and the Texans like we’re going to church, and their playbook is our saving grace. But we’re also being bombarded by advertising, and some of it may seem so subtle to us, that it practically goes unnoticed during an NFL game.

Spending a little more than three hours with your friends or family, cheering for your favorite NFL team, is usually what’s on the Sunday and Monday night agendas of households across America from early September through early January. The rules dictate that the game clock (a total of 60 minutes,) can run while the ball isn’t in play. What this translates to is a fair share of game time watching what the strategy will be, looking at coaches and players, perhaps seeing what the cheerleaders are up to, and then catching the huddling prior to a play that lasts an average of four seconds!

How Many Minutes of Game Play Does the Average NFL Game Have?

Photo: U.S. Air Force

The figure of 11 minutes of football action in an NFL game was actually tallied by the Wall Street Journal in 2010. The analysis the publication performed determined that replays averaged approximately 17 minutes of each NFL game, and that in comparison, live play was minimal. For the most part, fans are in effect consuming 75 minutes of non-action, consisting of coaches, players, and referees basically standing around. But does that bother you as much when you consider the time spent during the game? Example: would you watch the NFL any less as a result of knowing this information if it meant you would no longer get together with friends or family, spend time at your local hangout, or even tailgate at a live event?

How Many Minutes of Game Play Does the Average NFL Game Have?

Photo: Flickr/AJ Guel

Watching football on television consists of commercial breaks (believed to number at least 20) that play over 100 commercials each. When you’re at a live game, obviously that time is taken up mingling, talking, perhaps grabbing a beer, and watching the entertainment on the field. At home, however, it’s a different story. The Wall Street Journal found that the ad breaks cover approximately one hour out of the roughly three hours you’ll be seated to “watch the game.” This means you’ll either consciously or subconsciously (there’s no other alternative here,) be fed a steady stream of commercials from our consumer-driven economy. Does the thought of that take anything away from your enjoyment of the game? Not likely, considering that time can also be used for washroom breaks, talking with your friends, and the sharing of equally great food that pairs well with the NFL – like chicken wings, chips and dip, and all the great Texas tailgating recipes we’ve come to know and love!