Well, well, well. How the worm has turned. Ever so slightly

A season-best 14-2 mark in Week 17 by one of “Pigskin Pundits” has made the final week of the National Football League regular season a must-watch event — to see if Ken Waltz or Mark Haskell can make dramatic comebacks and overtake consistent leader Reade Brower for coveted guessing game bragging rights.

Unlikely, but one never knows. Have you been watching the unpredictability that has been the 2021-22 NFL season?

Rachel Coor

With a week to go, Brower leads Haskell by four games and Waltz by five. Too little too late for Haskell and Waltz? We shall see.

So let us get too it and kick off the 18th and final week of the regular season — then the real fun will begin for what should be a wild and wacky postseason.

With one week and 16 games left in the 2021-22 professional football regular season, Brower holds four-, five- and 12-game advantages over those in the field.

The campaign has put 256 games in the books.

And the final 16 field battles begin in Week 18, where there are a ton of difficult head-to-head battles — who will play, who will sit, will COVID-19 play a role?

The 17th week of the “Pigskin Pundits” saw Waltz finish 14-2, Brower, 12-4; Haskell, 11-5; and Zack Miller, 10-6. Guest Casey Holmes of Dixmont finished 11-5.

Thus, through 17 weeks, Brower is 171-84-1 (.671 winning percentage); Haskell, 167-88-1 (.655); Waltz, 166-89-1 (.651); and Miller, 159-96-1 (.624). The guests are 159-96-1 (.624).

The Week 18 guest is Rachel Coor of Warren.

Reade Brower

With his strong Week 17, Waltz became the top weekly picker among the “Pigskin Pundits” at 14-2, as he edged Brower’s 13-2 mark in Week 8. Ryan Verrill of Warren has been the best guest picker at 12-2 in Week 14 (Scott Cournoyer of Swanville held that distinction 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; Jared Porter, Thomaston, 9-7 in Week 16; and Casey Holmes, Dixmont, 11-5 in Week 17.

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.

Ken Waltz

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 Courier Publications/VillageSoup newspapers or one of the organization’s websites.

The NFL’s Week 18 schedule includes:

Saturday, Jan. 8

Kansas City at Denver

Dallas at Philadelphia

Mark Haskell

Sunday, Jan. 9

Cincinnati at Cleveland

Green Bay at Detroit

Chicago at Minnesota

Washington at New York Giants

Indianapolis at Jacksonville

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Tennessee at Houston

New Orleans at Atlanta

New York Jets at Buffalo

San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams

New England at Miami

Seattle at Arizona

Carolina at Tampa Bay

Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas

Zack Miller

The following are the Week 18 picks of the Courier Publications/VillageSoup “Pigskin Pundits” and guest:

Brower — Kansas City, Dallas, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Minnesota, Washington, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, New Orleans, Buffalo, Los Angeles Rams, New England, Arizona, Tampa Bay and Las Vegas.

Waltz — Kansas City, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Chicago, New York Giants, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Atlanta, Buffalo, Los Angeles Rams, Miami, Arizona, Tampa Bay and Los Angeles Chargers.

Haskell — Kansas City, Dallas, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Chicago, New York Giants, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, New Orleans, Buffalo, Los Angeles Rams, Miami, Arizona, Tampa Bay and Los Angeles Chargers.

Zack Miller — Kansas City, Dallas, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Minnesota, Washington, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Tennessee, New Orleans, Buffalo, Los Angeles Rams, New England, Arizona, Tampa Bay and Los Angeles Chargers.

Coor — Kansas City, Dallas, Cleveland, Green Bay, Minnesota, Washington, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, New Orleans, Buffalo, Los Angeles Rams, Miami, Arizona, Tampa Bay and Los Angeles Chargers.

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.