Everyone head to the end zone and hope the offensive line gives the quarterback maximum protection. With just two weeks remaining in the National Football League season, the Hail Mary is coming. But, first, some will need to recover an onside kick.

That is how it feels for most of the MaineStay Media/VillageSoup “Pigskin Pundits” and their guests as they continue to chase Reade Brower, king of the hill, as games dwindle to a precious few.

With two weeks and 32 games left in the 2021-22 professional football regular season, Brower holds three-, seven-, 10- and 11-game advantages over those in the field.

Mark Haskell has a shot to catch Brower as Haskell sits within striking distance, but Brower has been consistently steady much of this wacky, unpredictable campaign.

Casey Holmes

While the rest of the field may want to punt, Haskell surely will go for it on fourth-and-about-a-yard — three feet equals one yard and Haskell is three games behind, get it? Nevermind. Lame, for sure.

Nonetheless, Haskell is going for broke. Laying all his chips on the table. In fact, things should be quite interesting in Week 17 as Haskell and Brower have a difference of five games. Could the tables turn?

Now, as the weeks melt, the prognosticators and guests continue to fight and claw, if for nothing else, a strong finish.

The campaign has put 240 games in the books.

And the final 32 field battles begin with 16 additional games in Week 17, where there are a ton of difficult head-to-head battles.

The 16th week of the “Pigskin Pundits” saw Haskell finish 11-5; Brower and Ken Waltz, 10-6; and Zack Miller 9-7. Guest Jared Porter of Thomaston finished 9-7.

Reade Brower

Thus, through 16 weeks, Brower is 159-80-1 (.665 winning percentage); Haskell, 156-83-1(.653); Waltz, 152-87-1 (.636); and Miller, 149-90-1 (.623). The guests are 148-91-1(.619).

The Week 17 guest is Casey Holmes of Dixmont.

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 in Week 13; Ryan Verrill, Warren, 12-2 in Week 14; Jeff Hart, Camden Hills, 9-7 in Week 15; and Jared Porter, Thomaston, 9-7 in Week 16.

Ken Waltz

The “Pigskin Pundits” of MaineStay Media/VillageSoup are in their 23rd 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.”

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.

Mark Haskell

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 17 schedule includes:

Sunday, Jan. 2

Atlanta at Buffalo

New York Giants at Chicago

Kansas City at Cincinnati

Miami at Tennessee

Las Vegas at Indianapolis

Jacksonville at New England

Tampa Bay at New York Jets

Philadelphia at Washington

Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore

Denver at Los Angeles Chargers

Zack Miller

Houston at San Francisco

Arizona at Dallas

Carolina at New Orleans

Detroit at Seattle

Minnesota at Green Bay

Monday, Jan. 3

Cleveland at Pittsburgh

The following are the Week 17 picks of the Courier Publications/VillageSoup “Pigskin Pundits” and guest:

Brower — Buffalo, Chicago, Kansas City, Tennessee, Indianapolis, New England, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco, Dallas, New Orleans, Seattle, Green Bay and Pittsburgh.

Waltz — Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Indianapolis, New England, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco, Dallas, New Orleans, Seattle, Green Bay and Pittsburgh.

Haskell — Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Indianapolis, New England, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco, Dallas, Carolina, Detroit, Green Bay and Cleveland.

Zack Miller — Buffalo, New York Giants, Kansas City, Miami, Indianapolis, New England, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco, Dallas, New Orleans, Seattle, Green Bay and Cleveland.

Holmes — Buffalo, Chicago, Kansas City, Tennessee, Indianapolis, New England, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Los Angeles Rams, Denver, San Francisco, Arizona, Carolina, Seattle, Green Bay and Cleveland.

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.

MaineStay Media/VillageSoup sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com.