Take a bow, Reade Brower. And, while at it, Zack Miller, stand and wave.

Why you ask?

Well, because after a few weeks of the “Pigskin Pundits’ ” National Football League weekly game selections, it appeared Brower and Miller may have dug themselves too deep of holes to climb out. Alas, they have proven that was not the case and have rallied.

Reade Brower

As they say in the sports world, after recent strong weeks from Brower and Miller, it is a whole new ballgame and we have confirmed it is not over until the … well, we do not say that anymore because that would be disrespectful and hurtful (as well as body shaming) to larger, vocally-gifted, female-identifying members of our species.

Brower and Miller are back in the guessing game. In fact, Brower has worked his way to a tie for first after a tremendous Week 8 thanks to his consistent, unwavering love of — and belief in — the New England Patriots and his uncanny hunch the New Orleans Saints and coach Sean Payton again would have the number of Tom Brady and the seemingly unstoppable Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Now it is on to Week 9 as only a few games separate the four “Pigskin Pundits” and their guests.

After 122 games, things have tightened considerably.

With nearly 50 percent of the regular season complete — many teams have played eight of their 17 games — a rhythm has been created for the “Pigskin Pundits” and guests as they try to stay in the game and keep tabs on the co-leaders — Brower and Haskell — and within striking distance of the top spot.

The eighth week of the “Pigskin Pundits” saw Brower, owner of Courier Publications/VillageSoup, literally and figuratively own the others as he  finished a season-best 13-2. Miller ended 10-5, Waltz 8-7, Haskell 7-8 and guest, David Page of Winslow, 10-5.

Thus, through eight weeks, Haskell and Brower are 81-41 (.664 winning percentage); Waltz, 79-43 (.648); and Zack Miller, 78-44 (.639). The guests also are 79-43 (.648). The numbers show Haskell and Brower hold two- and three-game advantages over those in the field.

Ken Waltz

The Week 9 guest is Mike Fuller of Islesboro.

Thus far, Brower has experienced the most productive week among the “Pigskin Pundits” at 13-2 in Week 8, while Scott Cournoyer of Swanville has been the best guest picker at 12-4 in Week 3.

The guests thus far: Howard Fogg Jr., Monmouth, 8-8 in Week 1; Troy Smith, Waldoboro, 11-5 in Week 2; Scott Cournoyer, Swanville, 12-4 in Week 3; Bradley Strong, Rockland, 10-6 in Week 4; Mike Curtis, Thomaston, 10-6 in Week 5; Jason Karam, Warren, 10-4 in Week 6; and Meagan Miller, Warren, 8-5 in Week 7; and David Page of Winslow, 10-5 in Week 8.

The “Pigskin Pundits” of Courier Publications/VillageSoup are in their 23rd consecutive year as they make weekly game selections, with a guest each week.

Each year during the pro football season, Waltz (sports director), Haskell (associate sports director), Zack Miller (community editor), Brower (company owner) and a weekly guest go head-to-head to pick the winners (no scores or points spreads involved) of that week’s slate of games.

Readers/fans are invited to test their football wits against the “pros.”

Those interested in being a weekly guest can email Haskell at mhaskell@courierpublicationsllc.com.

For decades, the weekly picks were featured in Courier Publications’ newspapers The Courier-Gazette, Camden Herald and The Republican Journal. Now, those picks are made exclusively on the organization’s websites — knox.villagesoup.com and waldo.villagesoup.com — and appear most Thursdays.

Mark Haskell

For nearly a quarter century, the media foursome and guests have returned for the harder-than-it-looks weekly guessing games.

After 18 weeks, with the regular season extended to 17 weeks and one bye week, the guest with the best weekly record will return 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 the Courier Publications/VillageSoup newspapers or one of the organization’s websites.

The NFL’s Week 9 schedule includes:

Thursday, Nov. 4

New York Jets at Indianapolis

Sunday, Nov. 7

Cleveland at Cincinnati

Denver at Dallas

Houston at Miami

Atlanta at New Orleans

Las Vegas at New York Giants

New England at Carolina

Buffalo at Jacksonville

Minnesota at Baltimore

Zack Miller

Los Angeles Chargers at Philadelphia

Green Bay at Kansas City

Arizona at San Francisco

Tennessee at Los Angeles Rams

Monday, Nov. 8

Chicago at Pittsburgh

The following are the Week 9 picks of the Courier Publications/VillageSoup “Pigskin Pundits” and guest:

Brower — Indianapolis, Cleveland, Dallas, Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, New England, Buffalo, Baltimore, Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City, Arizona, Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh.

Waltz — Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Dallas, Miami, New Orleans, New York Giants, New England, Buffalo, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Arizona, Los Angles Rams and Pittsburgh.

Haskell — Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Dallas, Miami, New Orleans, New York Giants, New England, Buffalo, Baltimore, Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City, Arizona, Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh.

Mike Fuller

Zack Miller — Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Dallas, Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, New England, Buffalo, Baltimore, Los Angeles Chargers, Green Bay, Arizona, Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh.

Fuller — Indianapolis, New England, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Buffalo, Baltimore, Green Bay, Arizona, Los Angeles Rams and Chicago.

History lesson

Last year’s top guest picker was Howard Fogg Jr. of Monmouth. He earned a 13-3 record in Week 2 to earn the distinction. As the defending guest champion, he returns as the Week 1 guest in 2021.

After 17 weeks of the 2020-21 regular season, Brower finished 166-89-1 (.651 winning percentage), Waltz, 164-91-1 (.643); Haskell, 163-92-1 (.639); and Miller, 160-95-1 (.627). The guests finished 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 the postseason, Haskell proved the top picker with a 10-3 record, while Waltz and Fogg finished 9-4; Miller, 8-5; and Brower, 6-7. Waltz, Miller and Fogg correctly picked the Buccaneers to win Super Bowl LV.

For the guests in 2020, 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.

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 LIV, 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/VillageSoup sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com.