After the Cincinnati Bengals reached the AFC Championship Game for the second straight season, it started to feel like outsiders were getting tired of them already. It's true that casual football fans like to see more parity in sports, which is why college football isn't as fun anymore (at least in my opinion) and why the Kansas City Chiefs are so despised by a vast majority of casual fans.
Well, I'm here to say that while it might feel like the Bengals are villains now, that won't be entirely true until they win a title.
Bengals won't be villains until they win it all
Fans want parity in the league but they're more tolerant of seeing teams be successful year after year if they haven't won the big one yet (ie: the Bills). The Chiefs had been a team who, for 20 years, couldn't win in the playoffs. They hadn't won a championship in 50 years. People don't like them now because they won a title in 2020 and have been to two of three Super Bowls since then.
People don't want to see the same teams win. That's why the Patriots were so easy to root against during Tom Brady's time there. Until the Bengals get that first Super Bowl victory in franchise history and put themselves in a position to win it again, they won't truly be the villains of the NFL like the Chiefs are.
It might have seemed like outsiders were annoyed by the Bengals and were "happy" to see them lose in the AFC title game, but I'd chalk that up to all of the trash-talking they did leading into that game. Eli Apple is also a big reason why the Bengals might not be super popular. If he doesn't re-sign, that takes care of that problem.
Once the Bengals win a Super Bowl, we'll start to see NFL fans officially turn on them. Until that comes though, they're nowhere near the NFL villains that Bengals fans seem to think they are.