Yeah. Last night was a bummer.
I don't mean to sound dramatic, but I'll probably need a couple of days to process this. The Brady-Belichick success in the last 20 years has kind of skewed fan expectations about what it takes/how often a team should be able to make the Super Bowl, and Cincinnati (whilst still being very good) had three major 180 turns in each of their playoff games. It's very hard to see the team get this far and not be 100% confident the stars will align like 2021, for it to ever happen again. Not only do they have to improve the already-existing holes in the team (OFFENSIVE LINE DEFCON ONE), but the coaching staff and front office will have to constantly innovate to keep up with the likes of the Chiefs, Bills, Rams, 49ers, etc. Again, the team is on a very positive upwards trend, but I'd be lying if I still didn't hold a certain level of pessimism.
Regardless of the latter points above, 2021 was still a very good season that exceeded everyone's expectations, and I'm excited to keep watching Burrow et al. in the years to come.