Reade Brower is loyal to the New England Patriots — one might say to a fault.

However, Brower's belief in his favorite team, right to the end despite it being in the midst of a disappointing, non-playoff-qualifying season, paid dividends and proved among the reasons the owner of Courier Publications/VillageSoup finished first in the 22nd year of the "Pigskin Pundits."

Of course, Brower did a lot more right during the regular season than simply pick the Patriots for most games, but it was sticking with New England in the final week of the season that, ultimately, helped him get over the top and win the National Football League weekly picks among the media group.

As usual, the "Pigskin Pundits" included Courier Publications/VillageSoup's Brower, owner; Ken Waltz, sports director; Mark Haskell, associate sports director; and Zack Miller, sports reporter. That foursome and their weekly guests returned this year for the harder-than-it-looks guessing games.

Each week through the Super Bowl, a guest, along with the media crew, made predictions on the outcome of games. The outcomes were based on wins and loses, not a points spread.

After 17 weeks of 2020-21 play, Brower finished first at 166-89-1 (.651), Ken Waltz second at 164-91-1 (.643), Mark Haskell third at 163-92-1 (.639) and Zack Miller fourth at 160-95-1 (.627). The guests finished at 159-56-1 (.624).

Ultimately, after 256 gridiron clashes from September to January, that included one tie, Brower prevailed by two games over Waltz, three over Haskell and six over Miller, as well seven over the guests.

In Week 17, Haskell finished 13-3, Brower 12-4 and Miller and Waltz 11-5. Guest Laurie Cole of Rockland finished 12-4.

For the guests, in Week 1, Dave MacNeill of Warren finished 8-8; Week 2, Howard Fogg Jr. of Monmouth 13-3; Week 3, Rusty Worcester of Cushing 7-8-1; Week 4, Emily Cole of Waldoboro, 6-9; Week 5, Ryan Jackson of Warren, 10-4; Week 6, Richie Oliver of Jefferson, 9-5; Week 7, Casey Holmes of Dixmont, 9-5; Week 8, Matt Petrie of Wiscasset, 8-6; Week 9, Erik Benner of Friendship, 10-4; Week 10, Sandy Cameron of Belfast, 6-8; Week 11, Meagan Miller of Warren, 9-5; Week 12, Austin Haskell of Rockland, 11-5; Week 13, Lucas Brower of Rockland, 11-4; Week 14, Garrett French of Warren, 11-4; Week 15, Brad King of Camden, 10-6; Week 16, Sam Clement of Bennington, Vt. (originally from Lincolnville), 9-7; and Week 17, Laurie Cole of Rockland, 12-4.

For the media crew, Miller and Waltz finished tied with the best weekly records at 14-2 in Week 2, while, for the guests, Fogg earned the best weekly mark at 13-3 in Week 2, thus will pick against the media members in the playoffs.

As the top guest, Fogg also will receive a free one-year subscription to one of the media company's three Midcoast papers or two online sites.

After 17 weeks, 256 games, plenty of joy and exasperation and surely more than a few hairs pulled from heads, it came down to Brower punching it into the proverbial end zone for the win.

A final Sunday with 16 turf battles between the NFL's 32 teams saw a handful fight for playoff spots, others for postseason position and more than a few finished on a strong note as they head into 2021-22.

And when all was said and done, Brower had earned the top spot and the all-important bragging rights. In all, it was one of the tightest finishes in more than two decades of football game picking follies and fun.

Now, it is onto the Super Wild Card Weekend's six playoff games for the prognosticators and guest.

Waltz was the regular-season winner the previous two years, but others have risen to the top in the postseason.

For decades, the weekly picks were featured in Courier Publications’ newspapers The Courier-GazetteCamden Herald and The Republican Journal. Now, those picks are made exclusively on the organization’s websites — and

The picks appear each week online.

After 17 weeks of regular-season play, the guest with the best weekly record returns to pick against Waltz, Haskell, Miller and Brower for the playoffs and Super Bowl. The guest with the best weekly record also will receive a year's subscription to one of Courier Publications' newspapers or one of the organization's websites.

For the previous two years, the guest winner was Brad King of Camden, who has clearly proven the “king” of the guest pickers. Last year, he went 12-3-1 in Week 1 to earn the right to pick against Brower, Waltz, Haskell and Miller in the playoffs, while two years ago, King went 11-4 in Week 12 to earn the honors.

The Super Wild Card Weekend playoff encounters, for American Football Conference and National Football Conference teams, for the 2020-21 season includes:

Saturday, Jan. 9

AFC: No. 7 Indianapolis Colts at No. 2 Buffalo Bills.

NFC: No. 6 Los Angeles Rams at No. 3 Seattle Seahawks.

NFC: No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 4 Washington Football Team.

Sunday, Jan. 10

AFC: No. 5 Baltimore Ravens at No. 4 Tennessee Titans.

NFC: No. 7 Chicago Bears at No. 2 New Orleans Saints.

AFC: No. 6 Cleveland Browns at No. 3 Pittsburgh Steelers.

The following are the Super Wild Card Weekend picks of the Courier Publications/VillageSoup "Pigskin Pundits" and guest:

Brower — Buffalo, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, New Orleans and Pittsburgh.

Waltz — Buffalo, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, New Orleans and Pittsburgh.

Haskell — Buffalo, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, New Orleans and Pittsburgh.

Miller — Buffalo, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, New Orleans and Cleveland.

Fogg — Buffalo, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, New Orleans and Pittsburgh.

History lesson

In 2019-20, Waltz finished 165-90-1 (.647 winning percentage), Brower 159-96-1 (.624), Haskell 158-97-1 (.620), Miller 155-100-1 (.608) and guests 158-97-1 (.620).

Among the 'Pigskin Pundits,' Brower had the best weekly records at 14-1 in Week 8 and 13-2-1 in Week 1, while Brad King finished 12-3-1 in Week 1 for the best mark among the guests.

In the playoffs, Miller went 9-2, Waltz and Haskell 7-4, Brower 5-6 and King 3-8. Miller, Waltz, Haskell and Brower correctly picked the Kansas City Chiefs to beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 54, with Haskell’s prediction of 33-23 the closest to the 31-20 final score.

Guest participants in 2019-20 were: Week 1, Brad King of Rockland, 12-3-1; in Week 2, Michele Scheffler of Jefferson, 8-8; in Week 3, Howard Fogg of Monmouth, 11-5; in Week 4, Ethan Butler of Appleton, 7-8; in Week 5, Scott Case of Belfast, 7-8; in Week 6, Emily Cole of Waldoboro, 9-5; in Week 7, Casey Holmes of Dixmont, 11-3; in Week 8, Jacob Light of Warren, 10-5; in Week 9, Chad Blake of Rockland, 6-8; Week 10, Brad Strong of Rockland, 4-9; Week 11, Otis Kneeland of Stockton Springs, 10-4; Week 12, Chris Hart of Rockport, 10-4; Week 13, Sandy Cameron of Belfast, 11-5; Week 14, Dagney Ernest of Thomaston, 10-6; Week 15, Lynsey Carr of Augusta, 11-5; Week 16, Connor Kneeland of Stockton Springs, 12-4; and Week 17, Laura MacDonald, 10-6.

In 2018-19, Waltz was the “top dog” in the regular season as he finished 161-93-2 (.634 winning percentage), thanks to a 16-0 final week, while Miller was second at 157-97-2 (.618), Haskell third at 151-103-2 (.594) and Brower fourth at 142-112-2 (.559). The guests finished 148-106-2 (.583).

Overall, Waltz finished 167-98-2, Miller 162-103-2, Haskell 158-107-2, Brower 150-115-2 and guests 159-110-2.

Brad King of Rockland, who went 11-4 in Week 12 and earned the right to pick against Waltz, Haskell, Miller and Brower in the playoffs.

In the postseason, Brower finished 8-3, Haskell and King 7-4, Waltz 6-5 and Miller 5-6. All five correctly picked the Patriots to defeat the Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

Courier Publications' sports staff can be reached by email at or by phone at 594-4401.