'Pigskin Pundits' tackle final NFL game

Who you got? Super Bowl showdown for Patriots, Rams

Before final game, Brower, who finished last in regular season, leads at 7-3 in playoffs
By Staff | Jan 31, 2019

Rockland — The 2018-19 National Football League regular season and playoffs are history. Now, the big game, the one for all the marbles, Super Bowl LIII, between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams, will kick off on Sunday, Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in Atlanta, Ga.

And with it, this year's final weekly game picks from the Courier Publications/VillageSoup prognosticators and guest.

The league's wild card games were played on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 5-6, the divisional playoffs on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 12-13 and conference championships on Sunday, Jan. 20.

Now, at last, it is time for the final gridiron clash — the Super Bowl.

Courier Publications/VillageSoup's Reade Brower, Ken Waltz, Mark Haskell and Zack Miller, along with guest Brad King of Rockland, have picked playoff games through the Super Bowl.

In the first round of the postseason, Brower, Waltz, Haskell and King finished 2-2 and Miller 0-4. In the second round, Brower finished 4-0, Haskell, Miller and Waltz 3-1 and King 2-2. In the conference finals, King finished 2-0, Brower, Haskell and Miller 1-1 and Waltz 0-2.

Thus, in eight postseason contests, Brower is 7-3, Haskell and King 6-4, Waltz 5-5 and Miller 4-6.

Through 17 weeks of the regular season, Waltz made his late-season charge hold — thanks, in large part, to a perfect 16-0 Week 16 — and finished 161-93-2 (.634 winning percentage), 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).

King, who finished 11-4 in Week 12, turned out to be the best guest picker and, thus, joins the Courier Publications/VillageSoup crew to select the postseason games.

For the guests, in Week 1, Howard Fogg of Monmouth finished 7-8-1; Week 2, Ethan Butler of Appleton, 9-6-1; Week 3, Richard Carlsen of Vinalhaven, 9-7; Week 4, Jason Karam of Warren, 8-7; Week 5, Sandy Cameron of Belfast, 9-6; Week 6, Scott Case of Belfast 8-7; Week 7, Dwight Collins of Lincolnville 10-4; Week 8, Bruce Turner of Orrington 9-5; Week 9, Ricky Bagnall of Rockland 9-4; Week 10, Kyle Donlin 7-7; Week 11, Laurie Cole of Rockland, 6-7; Week 12, Brad King of Rockland 11-4; Week 13, Marty Messer of Rockport, 7-9; Week 14, Josh Toothaker of Searsport, 11-5; Week 15, Rachel Coor of Phoenix, Az. and Union, 10-6; Week 16, Dan Falla of Tenants Harbor, 8-8; and Week 17, Tim Matero of Rockland, 10-6.

This was the 20th straight year the "Pigskin Pundits" made their weekly NFL game selections.

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

The picks appeared each Thursday online for the regular season (due to Thursday night games) and no later than Friday for the playoffs.

Each year during the NFL season, through the Super Bowl, Brower, Waltz, Haskell and a weekly guest went head-to-head against one another by picking that week’s slate of pro football games. This year, sports reporter Miller joins the group to try to earn football picking bragging rights.

The “winners” of games are not selected by a points spread, but merely the final score.

After 17 weeks, the guest with the best weekly record returned to pick against Waltz, Haskell, Miller and Brower for the playoffs and Super Bowl. The guest with the best weekly record, in this case, King, also received a year's subscription to any of Courier Publications' newspapers or one of the organization's two websites.

Those interested in being a weekly guest picker next year should email Haskell at mhaskell@courierpublicationsllc.com.

So, who do you like in the Super Bowl? Here is what our "experts" and guest think, with their final score prediction and thoughts listed:

Brower — New England Patriots 31, Los Angeles Rams 20. "Patriots take care of business. Patriots run game keeps Rams defense off-balance allowing Tom Brady to find both familiar and unfamiliar targets when he needs them. Gronk and Edelman are difference makers as Rams are defeated — 'death by a million cuts.' "

Waltz — New England Patriots 34, Los Angeles Rams 24. "History has come full circle. The Patriots and Rams, chapter two. Nearly two decades later. It appeared, at times, that this was not a championship-worthy New England team. In fact, the Pats looked, in many games, downright 'old, slow and out of sync.' Then they 'figured it out.' Things started to click. They have played their best at the right time. They are on a roll — clicking on offense, defense and special teams — and there is no stopping this train. As a Patriots' fan I am calm and confident. I am certain of victory. I am as sure about a New England victory as I was that there was no way in hell Donald Trump would become president of this great country. Wait a minute ... oh crap. Now I'm worried."

Haskell — New England Patriots 30, Los Angeles Rams 24. "I fully expect this game, like all of the other Patriot Super Bowls in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era, to be a close one, with the biggest margin of victory or defeat in any of those games being last year's 41-33 loss to Philadelphia (as an Eagles' fan, had to sneak that in one last time). As far as the key to beating the Pats in Super Bowls over the past two decades, the recurring theme has been for opposing defenses to have a strong front four. The Rams have that in spades, led by Aaron Donald, the NFL's top defensive player. That being said, New England's biggest strength in their last two playoff games, has been their offensive line as Brady has yet to be sacked in the postseason. Assuming their offensive line continues to overachieve, It's hard to bet against the Patriots. Their fans will sweat it out, but the Pats will get their sixth Super Bowl title."

Miller — New England Patriots 31, Los Angeles Rams 21. "It's familiar territory for New England, and its fans alike, and that may be the difference in the game, and a guy by the name of Tom Brady. The Rams do have a great defensive line in Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and former Jaguar Donte Fowler, but look for the Patriots to counter that attack with tempo on offense. On defense, Bill Belichick always has a plan, and look for him to take away one of Los Angeles' two 1,200-yard receivers and stick Stephon Gilmore on the other. The Patriots finally have a decent pass-rush, and look for Trey Flowers and company to put pressure on young Jared Goff and force him into a turnover, or two."

King — New England Patriots 27, Los Angeles Rams 14. "The Madden Super Bowl projection (10-5 over 15 Super Bowls) has Rams by 3 [points] in a game with a total of 57 [points] and covering the spread of +2.5 by a total of 5.5 in a game with 0/U of about 55. As a gambling man that makes my eyes light up, but as a betting trend skeptic and a Patriots' fan, I don’t believe this to be true. I think the Pats' O-line and the team's overall experience in big games will prevail. Patriots win when James White has lots of touches and the Rams' defense cannot contain him catching the ball out of the backfield if Gronk spreads outside and has a few catches early in the game. My score prediction is just a guess, but I do think if you want some extra cash this Sunday I would have Patriots holding the spread and also a trophy."

History lesson

Last season, Brower was the “top dog” as he finished with a 178-78 record (.695 winning percentage), while the weekly guests finished second at 169-87 (.660), Haskell third at 156-100 (.609) and Waltz fourth at 153-103 (.598).

As a guest picker last season in Week 8, Miller finished a perfect 13-0 and earned the right to pick against Waltz, Haskell and Brower in the playoffs, along with Sandy Cameron of Belfast and Mark Cooper of Fairfield, who finished with 13-3 records in Week 13 and Week 16, respectively.

As an employee in another Brower company, Miller was ineligible to collect the free year’s subscription, but picked playoff games along with Cameron and Cooper, who had the second-best guest marks.

Haskell, Miller and Cooper correctly picked the Philadelphia Eagles to defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

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

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