With only two weeks left in the National Football League regular season, seven games separate the four “Pigskin Pundits.” The question is will Mark Haskell, who has led the way much of the campaign, be able to run out the clock or will one or more of the others connect on a hail Mary to pull victory from the jaws of defeat?

And, what about the guests, who have surged in recent weeks to make a serious bid to beat one or more of the “pundits.”

Reade Brower

A lot will be determined the next two weeks, especially in Week 17.

Of course, making up ground at the end of the campaign can be a challenge. While selecting the outcomes of games during the regular season is, at best, unpredictable, that can be magnified at this point because it is difficult to know the health and motivation of each team.

In any case, we are on to Week 17.

The MaineStay Media/VillageSoup “Pigskin Pundits” include Reade Brower (company owner), Ken Waltz (sports editor), Haskell (associate sports editor) and Jim Leonard (Republican Journal news editor).

Those four, with a different weekly guest, pick the outcome of games.

As the pundits and their weekly guests continue to realize, predicting the outcome of games is harder than it looks — and always a hit-or-miss proposition.

Will it be more of the same in Week 17, or will there be a dramatic shakeup? Well, it depends on one’s perspective and what the football gods have in mind.

As they say in the unpredictable world of weekly football game picking, we shall see. The proof will be in the proverbial pudding.

In Week 16, Leonard finished 12-4, Brower 11-5, Haskell 10-6 and Waltz 9-7. Guest Jeremiah LaBree of Cushing also finished 9-7.

Ken Waltz

Sixteen weeks into another crazy NFL campaign, Mark Haskell remains first at 152-86-2 (.639 winning percentage), Leonard 147-91-2 (.618), Brower 146-92-2 (.613) and Waltz 145-93-2 (.609). The guests are 143-95-2 (.601).

Thus, Mark Haskell leads Leonard by five games, Brower six and Waltz seven as the campaign heads down the home stretch. The guests are nine games back of the leader.

The Week 17 guest is Brad Strong of Rockland.

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 and Jeremiah LaBree 9-7 in Week 16.

Thus far, Brower and Mark Haskell have the best weekly records among the “pundits” at 13-3 in Week 4 when total number of wins are tabulated, or Mark Haskell at 12-2 in Week 7 (.857) if winning percentage is the deciding criteria.

Brandon Hurd of Brooks (13-1-1) in Week 13, Beckett Haskell of Rockland (11-5) in Week 15, Amin Hernandez of St. George (11-5) in Week 12 and Quinn Commeau (11-5) in Week 5, have the top marks among guests.

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.

Mark Haskell

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

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

For the 24th year, the MaineStay Media/VillageSoup sports staff ushers in its “Pigskin Pundits” weekly NFL game selections, where readers/fans test 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 — knox.villagesoup.com and waldo.villagesoup.com.

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 mhaskell@villagesoup.com.

The games for Week 17 include:

Dec. 29

Dallas at Tennessee

Jan. 1

Arizona at Atlanta

Chicago at Detroit

Jim Leonard

Denver at Kansas City

Miami at New England

Indianapolis at New York Giants

New Orleans at Philadelphia

Carolina at Tampa Bay

Cleveland at Washington

Jacksonville at Houston

San Francisco at Las Vegas

New York Jets at Seattle

Minnesota at Green Bay

Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Chargers

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Jan. 2

Buffalo at Cincinnati

The Week 17 picks for the “Pigskin Pundits” and their guest include:

Brower — Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, Kansas City, New England, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Seattle, Green Bay, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore and Buffalo.

Brad Strong

Waltz — Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, Kansas City, New England, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Carolina, Washington, Jacksonville, San Francisco, New York Jets, Green Bay, Los Angeles Chargers, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Mark Haskell — Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, Kansas City, New England, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Carolina, Cleveland, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Seattle, Green Bay, Los Angeles Chargers, Pittsburgh and Buffalo.

Leonard — Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Washington, Jacksonville, San Francisco, New York Jets, Green Bay, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore and Buffalo.

Strong — Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, Kansas City, New England, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Washington, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Seattle, Minnesota, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore and Cincinnati.

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 sports@villagesoup.com.