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The Cincinnati Bengals were less than two minutes away from winning their first-ever Super Bowl. However, after a questionable defensive holding call and a clutch touchdown catch by Cooper Kupp, Joe Burrow’s squad ended the season as the NFL’s runner-up.

But despite the loss, Cincy still had a magical year. It won its first playoff game since the 1990 campaign and gave fans a memory they will never forget by reaching the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1988 season.

So, with their accomplishments in the rearview mirror and a bright future ahead of them, Joe Burrow discussed the state of his team after the Super Bowl. And his comments should serve as a major warning for the rest of the AFC.

Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals surprised everyone this year

Yes, the Bengals lost on Super Sunday, but they still had a magical season. No one expected them to be there in the first place.

Prior to this year, Cincinnati hadn’t reached the playoffs since 2015. It had also gone a combined 6-25-1 in the last two seasons.

But Joe Burrow, the Ohio product, put the rest of the NFL on notice, winning the AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award with 4,611 yards, 34 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He then helped the Bengals win their first AFC North title since 2015 and led them on a storybook playoff run, beating the Las Vegas Raiders, Tennessee Titans, and Kansas City Chiefs en route to the Super Bowl.

Cincy then had the lead over the Los Angeles Rams with 1:47 left in the Super Bowl, but an atrocious third-down defensive holding call on linebacker Logan Wilson set up an eventual Cooper Kupp touchdown with 1:25 on the clock.

The Bengals turned it over on downs on the ensuing possession, and they lost 23-20.

But despite likely feeling disappointed about not getting the win, Burrow seemed encouraged about the future.

Joe Burrow is encouraged about the Bengals’ future

Joe Burrow spoke after the devastating loss to the Rams, and he still seemed excited for the future in Cincinnati.

It’s as bright as it gets.

“We’re a young team, so you’d like to think that we’ll be back in this situation multiple times over the course of the next few years. So, we take this and let it fuel you for the rest of our careers.”

Joe Burrow (h/t CBS Sports HQ)

It may have just been a couple of sentences, but Burrow’s comments could be foreshadowing his team’s future success.

The rest of the AFC has a lot of work to do because there’s a good chance the Bengals will be back.

The Bengals have a chance to dominate the AFC for years to come

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow before the 2022 Super Bowl.
Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on prior to Super Bowl 56 against the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 13, 2022. | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Bengals and Rams were in vastly different situations this year. LA risked its future to try to win a championship this season, but its Super Bowl window doesn’t have much longevity to it.

Cincinnati, on the other hand, is just getting started.

Its top four offensive stars are younger than 26 in Joe Burrow (25), Joe Mixon (25), Ja’Marr Chase (21), and Tee Higgins (23). If that core can stay together, the Bengals can win a ton of games over the next several seasons.

However, its top defensive players are also relatively young. Linebacker and leading tackler Logan Wilson is only 25, Trey Hendrickson, who had 14.0 sacks this year, is 27, and star safety Jessie Bates III is only 24.

The Bengals must get protection for Burrow moving forward, but they already proved they can do a lot more than just compete with the best of the best.

They are the best of the best.

And if teams like the Chiefs, Titans, Buffalo Bills, or any other AFC hopefuls want to reach the Super Bowl, they will likely have to beat Burrow and company first.

Burrow, though, likely doesn’t plan on letting that happen. The Super Bowl was his first playoff loss since high school, and he expects to return to the big game multiple times over the next few seasons.

The Bengals proved they were a dangerous team this year. They also have an extremely bright future. So, the rest of the AFC should view Burrow’s comment as a major warning.

The Cincinnati Bengals are here to stay.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference