Come to find out, slow and steady can win the race.

And Reade Brower should know because he literally has participated in hundreds of races, including marathons — which is what the 2021-22 National Football League regular season proved to be with an expanded 17-game schedule.

No matter, Brower took control early and stayed the course, as he fended on a real challenge from Mark Haskell and fake late-season push from Ken Waltz to tackle accolades — bragging rights, if you will — as this season’s “Pigskin Pundits” champion.

Reade Brower

Now Brower, who played an impressive .670 ball during the regular season, will see if he can stay on top of his game and field during the postseason and through Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.

Brower stared down challengers and, in reality, was never truly tested down the stretch, although Haskell and Waltz got within a handful of games before they spit the bit — Waltz in a big way — in the final week.

So, congratulations Mr. Brower. Stand up and take a bow. Your weekly consistency earned the accolades and admiration of pro football game prophesiers the world over.

However, remember, you now have a bulls-eye on your back and the pundits, as well as guest, seek sweet revenge in the playoffs.

That guest is Ryan Verrill of Warren, who emerged as the best guest picker at 12-2 in Week 14. Scott Cournoyer of Swanville held that distinction 10 weeks before being overtaken by Verrill.

Verrill will predict the win/loss outcomes of games against the pundits through the playoffs and Super Bowl.

From September through January, and despite plenty of injuries, ups and downs and COVID-19-related issues for teams, the regular campaign put 272 games in the books. And the first six playoff games — Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans earned byes as the No. 1 seeds in the National and American Football Conferences — will be contested Saturday through Monday, Jan. 15-17.

The 18th and final week of the “Pigskin Pundits” regular-season predictions saw Brower finish 10-6; Haskell and Zack Miller, 8-8; and Waltz, 6-10 (a week after he put himself in contention at 14-2). Guest Rachel Coor of Warren finished 11-5.

Ken Waltz

Thus, through 18 weeks of the regular season, Brower finished 181-90-1 (.668 winning percentage); Haskell, 175-96-1 (.645); Waltz, 172-99-1 (.635); and Miller, 167-104-1 (.616). The guests finished 170-101-1 (.627).

Waltz was the top weekly picker among the “Pigskin Pundits” at 14-2 in Week 17, as he edged Brower’s 13-2 mark in Week 8. Ryan Verrill of Warren was the best guest picker at 12-2 in Week 14.

The guests’ records this fall, with name, town, record and week listed, included: 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; Casey Holmes, Dixmont, 11-5 in Week 17; and Rachel Coor, Warren, 11-5 in Week 18.

The “Pigskin Pundits” of MaineStay Media/VillageSoup are in their 23rd year as they make weekly game selections, with a guest.

Mark Haskell

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 MaineStay Media 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 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.

Zack Miller

The NFL’s Wild Card playoff schedule includes:

Saturday, Jan. 15

AFC: Las Vegas at Cincinnati.

AFC: New England at Buffalo.

Sunday, Jan. 16

NFC: Philadelphia at Tampa Bay.

NFC: San Francisco at Dallas.

AFC: Pittsburgh at Kansas City.

Monday, Jan. 17

NFC: Arizona at Los Angeles Rams.

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

Brower — Cincinnati, New England, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Kansas City and Los Angeles Rams.

Waltz — Cincinnati, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Kansas City and Los Angeles Rams.

Ryan Verrill

Haskell — Cincinnati, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Dallas, Kansas City and Los Angeles Rams.

Zack Miller — Cincinnati, New England, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Kansas City and Los Angeles Rams.

Verrill — Cincinnati, New England, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, San Francisco and Arizona.

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.