As the well-worn statement goes, it is all over but the crying.

Weeping? Sniffling? OK, the rest of us simply will wipe the mist, created by unbearable sadness and sheer disappointment, from our eyes.

There will be, alas, only tears of joy from one “Pigskin Pundit” who essentially led from start to finish of the National Football League season, give or take a few weeks when another “pundit” held the top spot.

Reade Brower

With consistent, seemingly unwavering week-to-week success, Mark Haskell brought it home to cap a sensational overall campaign. He had a bundle of strong weeks and few weak weeks en route to MaineStay Media/VillageSoup “Pigskin Pundits” regular-season title.

Additionally, Brandon Hurd of Brooks nearly tackled perfection and, ultimately, was the top guest when he compiled a 13-1-1 mark in Week 13. As the top guest, Hurd had the option of a receiving, free of charge, a year’s subscription to one of the media company’s newspapers or access to one of its website.

Thus, as the best guest picker, Hurd will match wits against “pundits” Reade Brower (company owner), Ken Waltz (sports editor), Haskell (associate sports editor) and Jim Leonard (Republican Journal managing editor).

Now, that group will predict the outcomes of postseason games, which begins with Wild Card Weekend and the National Football Conference and American Football Conference playoffs.

Despite most people’s concerns over the health of Buffalo Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered cardiac arrest on the field in Week 17 against host Cincinnati and, for a bit, needed to fight for his life (he has made a remarkable recovery), the football games went on in Week 18, a final opportunity for the “pundits” to make up ground.

Ken Waltz

While the pickers had solid finishing weeks, Haskell maintained his stranglehold on the top spot and will see if he can maintain his dominance in the playoffs.

In Week 18, Haskell, Brower and Waltz finished 11-5 and Leonard 10-6. Guest Zack Miller of Warren, a former member of the “pundits,” also finished 10-6.

After 18 regular-season weeks of unpredictable NFL play, Haskell finished first at 176-93-2 (.654 winning percentage), Brower second 170-99-2 (.632) and Leonard and Waltz tied for third at 167-102-2 (.621). The guests finished 164-105-2 (.610).

Thus, Haskell finished first by a whopping six games over Brower and nine ahead of Leonard and Waltz. The guests were 12 games back of the leader. While Haskell dominated, Brower, Leonard and Waltz finished within three games of one another.

This season for the guests, Sam Adolphsen of Hope finished 6-9-1 in Week 1, Rachel Coor of Damariscotta 7-9 in Week 2, Zach Smith of Belfast 6-10 in Week 3, Dan Falla of Tenants Harbor 10-6 in Week 4, Quinn Commeau of Rockland 11-5 in Week 5, Chris Audet of Searsport 8-6 in Week 6, Casey Holmes of Dixmont 9-5 in Week 7, Sam Bickford of Vinalhaven 9-6 in Week 8, Ethan Abbott of Belmont 9-4 in Week 9, Ibrahim Moustapher of Camden 8-6 in Week 10, Connor Light of Warren 10-4 in Week 11, Amin Hernandez of St. George 11-5 in Week 12, Brandon Hurd of Brooks 13-1-1 in Week 13, Ryan Verrill of Warren 6-7 in Week 14, Beckett Haskell of Rockland 11-5 in Week 15, Jeremiah LaBree 9-7 in Week 16, Brad Strong of Rockland 11-4 in Week 17 and Zack Miller of Warren 10-6 in Week 18.

Mark Haskell and Brower had the best weekly records among the “pundits” at 13-2 in Week 17.

Hurd of Brooks (13-1-1) in Week 13, Strong of Rockland (11-4) in Week 17, Beckett Haskell of Rockland (11-5) in Week 15, Hernandez of St. George (11-5) in Week 12 and Commeau (11-5) in Week 5 had the top marks among guests, while Hurd finished atop the group.

Mark Haskell

The NFL games got under way on Sept. 8 and, after 18 weeks (17 games) of the regular season, which includes a bye week for all teams, and a few weeks of playoff battles, it will be time for Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12, 2023 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Az.

As the dog days of summer quickly transition into the brisk days of fall, the start of the regular season was upon us as 32 teams geared up for a run at the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy.

And, on a Midcoast level, sportswriters and sports aficionados looked to prove their mental mettle for bragging rights.

For the 24th year, the MaineStay Media/VillageSoup sports staff ushered in its “Pigskin Pundits” weekly NFL game selections, where readers/fans tested their football wits against the “pros.”

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 — and

The prognosticators and weekly guest go head-to-head when they pick the winners — no scores or points spreads involved — of that week’s slate of games.

After 18 weeks, 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 MaineStay Media/VillageSoup newspapers or one of the organization’s websites.

Those interested in being a weekly guest picker should email Haskell at

Jim Leonard

The Wild Card Weekend playoff games include:

Jan. 14

NFC: No. 7 Seattle at No. 2 San Francisco

AFC: No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers at No. 4 Jacksonville

Jan. 15

AFC: No. 7 Miami at No. 2 Buffalo

NFC: No. 6 New York Giants at No. 3 Minnesota

AFC: No. 6 Baltimore at No. 3 Cincinnati

Jan. 16

NFC: No. 5 Dallas at No. 4 Tampa Bay

The picks for the first round of the playoffs for the “Pigskin Pundits” and their guest include:

Brower — San Francisco, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Minnesota, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay.

Waltz — San Francisco, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Minnesota, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay.

Mark Haskell — San Francisco, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Minnesota, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay.

Leonard —  San Francisco, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo, Minnesota, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay.

Brandon Hurd

Hurd — San Francisco, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Minnesota, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay.

History lesson

Last year’s top guest picker was Ryan Verrill of Warren, who finished 12-2 in Week 14, and earned the right to pick against Waltz, Haskell, Brower and former picker Zack Miller in the postseason.

In the playoffs, Haskell and Miller finished 9-4, Waltz 8-5, Brower 7-6 and Verrill 6-7, as Haskell, Waltz and Miller correctly picked the Los Angeles Rams to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.

Overall in 2021-22, Brower finished 188-96-1 (.662); Haskell, 184-100-1 (.648); Waltz, 180-104-1 (.634); Zack Miller, 176-108-1 (620); and guests, 176-108-1 (620).

MaineStay Media/VillageSoup sports staff can be reached by email at