3 Numerical Fun Facts About NFL Football

What do uniform numbers tell you about NFL players? How can you estimate how fast a wide-receiver is running? How long is an average NFL game? And how much of this time is actual gameplay? 

Jason Marshall, PhD
4-minute read
Episode #257

Fact 3: How Long Is an NFL Game?

Let’s now move on to talking about a few numerical fun facts having to do with NFL games and time. Up first, how long is an average football game? In an awesome article for sportsonearth.com, writer Aaron Gordon tells us that the average NFL game lasts a total of 3 hours 10 minutes and 34 seconds (that’s based upon an average over all the games in the first 11 weeks of the 2013 season). During that time you will see an average of 133.6 plays, 87.9 of which will net positive yardage, and roughly 9 of these will net gains of more than 20 yards. The final score of this game will be 29.0 to 17.8, and it’ll be an awesome game.

The average NFL game lasts a total of 3 hours 10 minutes and 34 seconds.

That 3 hours 10 minutes and 34 seconds (on average) is certainly an impressive amount of time. But, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal, a lot of that time is spent doing things other than actually playing football. In fact, only about 11 minutes of that game will be spent with the ball snapped actually playing the game. This is why if you’re watching a TV broadcast of a game, about an hour of the time will be spent on commercials (during which time the players are presumably all having a giant impromptu dance party while they wait), and roughly 2/3 of the remaining broadcast time is made up of shots of players milling around and lining up to prepare for the next play.

Of course, to a proper football fan, these things (presumably besides the commercials) are all actually part of the game … so all of these observations are kind of silly. But, nonetheless, they are also a great source of numerical fun facts for us to think about and enjoy.

Wrap Up

OK, that’s all the math we have time for today.

For more fun with math, please check out my book, The Math Dude’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Algebra. And remember to become a fan of The Math Dude on Facebook, where you’ll find lots of great math posted throughout the week. If you’re on Twitter, please follow me there, too.

Until next time, this is Jason Marshall with The Math Dude’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Make Math Easier. Thanks for reading, math fans!

Football fan image from Shutterstock.


About the Author

Jason Marshall, PhD

Jason Marshall is the author of The Math Dude's Quick and Dirty Guide to Algebra. He provides clear explanations of math terms and principles, and his simple tricks for solving basic algebra problems will have even the most math-phobic person looking forward to working out whatever math problem comes their way.

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