Baker Mayfield gives NFC early lead in

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Tampa Bay’s Baker Mayfield beat Houston’s C.J. Stroud in the precision passing skills challenge, helping the NFC build a 12-6 lead over the AFC on the opening night of the 2024 Pro Bowl Games.

The made-for-TV Pro Bowl skills show, aired Thursday night from a fieldhouse on the campus of the University of Central Florida, kicked off two days of competition that culminates Sunday with a 7-on-7 flag football game at Camping World Stadium.

It’s the second year for a revamped format that replaced the traditional Pro Bowl tackle football game last winter in Las Vegas. Opening night skills winners each earned three points that count toward their team’s overall score.

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Mayfield, a finalist for AP Comeback Player of the Year after leading the Buccaneers to their third consecutive NFC South division title, edged Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts and Geno Smith of the Seattle Seahawks for the right to face Stroud in the precision passing final.

Stroud, who led the Texans to the AFC South championship as a rookie, advanced over Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa and Gardner Minshew of the Indianapolis Colts.

The NFC also posted wins in the closest to the pin golf accuracy challenge, dodgeball and snap shots, which featured centers and long snappers aiming at targets.

The AFC picked up points by winning one of two dodgeball games and also prevailing in high stakes, which required players to catch punts from a Jugs machine.

The Pro Bowl Games conclude Sunday with more skill events, as well as the flag game, which consists of four 12-minute quarters played on a 50-yard field. Points accumulated during the game will be added to those earned in skill challenges to determine which conference wins the overall competition.

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