Now the real fun begins.

With about 40 percent of the National Football League regular season complete — many teams have played seven of their 17 games — a rhythm has been created for the “Pigskin Pundits” and their guests as they try to stay in the game and keep tabs on the leader — Mark Haskell — and within striking distance of the top spot.

Reade Brower

There were plenty of positive vibes from Week 7, but the guessing game continues to get more difficult week to week.

Week 8 should be no different.

After 107 games, Haskell has proven tough to catch, but, as they say, there is still time on the clock and anything can happen. Nobody plans to punt and it certainly is not time for a Hail Mary.

And while everyone had a solid Week 7, one prognosticator, who will remain nameless (Zack Miller?) is simply happy he did not lose to his wife — again.

The seventh week of the “Pigskin Pundits” saw Haskell and Ken Waltz finish 10-3, Reade Brower and Zack Miller 9-4 and guest, Meagan Miller of Warren, 8-5.

Thus, through seven weeks, Haskell is 74-33 (.692 winning percentage); Waltz, 71-36 (.664); and Brower and Zack Miller, 68-39 (.636). The guests are 69-38 (.645). The numbers show Haskell holds three- , five- and six-game advantages over those in the field.

The Week 8 guest is David Page of Winslow.

Thus far, Waltz, Haskell and Zack Miller have had the most productive weeks among the “Pigskin Pundits” at 13-3 in Weeks 3 and 5, while Scott Cournoyer of Swanville has been the best guest picker at 12-4, also 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.

Ken Waltz

The “Pigskin Pundits” of MaineStay Media/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.

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 MaineStay Media/VillageSoup newspapers or one of the organization’s websites.

Mark Haskell

The NFL’s Week 8 schedule includes:

Thursday, Oct. 28

Green Bay at Arizona

Sunday, Oct. 31

Carolina at Atlanta

Miami at Buffalo

San Francisco at Chicago

Pittsburgh at Cleveland

Philadelphia at Detroit

Tennessee at Indianapolis

Cincinnati at New York Jets

Los Angeles Rams at Houston

New England at Los Angeles Chargers

Jacksonville at Seattle

Washington at Denver

Tampa Bay at New Orleans

Dallas at Minnesota

Monday, Nov. 1

New York Giants at Kansas City

Zack Miller

The following are the Week 8 picks of the MaineStay Media/VillageSoup “Pigskin Pundits” and guest:

Brower — Green Bay, Atlanta, Buffalo, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Los Angeles Rams, New England, Seattle, Denver, New Orleans, Dallas and Kansas City.

Waltz — Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, San Francisco, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville, Denver, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Kansas City.

Haskell — Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, San Francisco, Cleveland, Detroit, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle, Washington, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Kansas City.

Zack Miller — Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle, Denver, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Kansas City.

Page — Green Bay, Carolina, Buffalo, San Francisco, Cleveland, Detroit, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle, Denver, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Kansas City.

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.

David Page

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.

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