When it appeared things were pretty much settled in the “Pigskin Pundits” weekly quest for National Football League game picking supremacy for 2021-22, things got a bit more interesting. Significantly more interesting.

In Week 14, other media prognosticators made a smidgen of headway against consistent leader Reade Brower, who, thankfully for the others, slipped a bit, as a mere four weeks remain in the regular season.

Jeff Hart

Large late-campaign leads have slipped away before, but this time Brower’s advantage appeared insurmountable, only it was not.

Now, as the weeks dwindle, the other prognosticators and their guests essentially are back in the game for the regular-season crown.

The 2021-22 NFL regular season is down to a precious handful of games and a mere four weeks of play. The campaign has put 208 games in the books and it is time everyone — now, including Brower — put up or shut up.

And that starts in Week 15, where there are a ton of difficult matches.

The 14th week of the “Pigskin Pundits” saw Mark Haskell and Zack Miller finish 12-2, Ken Waltz 11-3 and Brower 9-5. Guest Ryan Verrill ended 12-2.

Thus, through 14 weeks, Brower is 137-70-1 (.662 winning percentage); Haskell, 135-72-1(.652); Waltz, 132-75-1 (.638); and Miller, 130-77-1 (.628). The guests also are 130-77-1 (.628).

The numbers show Brower, as the games come down the stretch, holds two-, five-, and seven-game advantages over those in the field.

The Week 15 guest is Jeff Hart of Camden.

Reade Brower

Thus far, Brower has experienced the most productive week among the “Pigskin Pundits” at 13-2 in Week 8, while Ryan Verrill of Warren has been the best guest picker at 12-2 in Week 14 (Scott Cournoyer of Swanville held that spot about 10 weeks).

The guests’ records this fall include: 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; David Page, Winslow, 10-5 in Week 8; Mike Fuller, Islesboro, 4-10 in Week 9; Kristin Falla, Tenants Harbor, 7-6-1 in Week 10; Garrett French, Warren, 10-5 in Week 11; Donald Prescott, Rockland, 8-7 in Week 12; Joshua Toothacker, Stockton Springs, 10-4; and Ryan Verrill, Warren, 12-2.

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, former sports reporter), 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.”

Ken Waltz

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.

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 15 schedule includes:

Thursday, Dec. 16

Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers

Saturday, Dec. 18

Las Vegas at Cleveland

New England at Indianapolis

Mark Haskell

Sunday, Dec. 19

Carolina at Buffalo

Arizona at Detroit

New York Jets at Miami

Dallas at New York Giants

Washington at Philadelphia

Tennessee at Pittsburgh

Houston at Jacksonville

Cincinnati at Denver

Atlanta at San Francisco

Seattle at Los Angeles Rams

Green Bay at Baltimore

New Orleans at Tampa Bay

Zack Miller

Monday, Dec. 20

Minnesota at Chicago

The following are the Week 15 picks of the Courier Publications/VillageSoup “Pigskin Pundits” and guest:

Brower — Kansas City, Las Vegas, New England, Buffalo, Arizona, Miami, Dallas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

Waltz — Kansas City, Las Vegas, New England, Buffalo, Arizona, Miami, Dallas, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

Haskell — Kansas City, Las Vegas, New England, Buffalo, Arizona, Miami, Dallas, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

Zack Miller — Kansas City, Las Vegas, New England, Buffalo, Arizona, Miami, Dallas, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

Hart — Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas, New England, Buffalo, Arizona, Miami, Dallas, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Houston, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay, Tampa Bay 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 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.

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.