It's an aspiration for some, an expectation for others, but in no way a guarantee of joy: making the NFL playoffs.
Because, as we've seen these last three weeks -- and as we'll see on one side in two more weeks -- the pain of losing is even more pronounced when the postseason comes around. It stings. And it shows.
So with 10 of the season's 11 elimination games finished and only the Super Bowl to be contested, Playbook and the aptly named Tumblr "
The Agony of Defeat" now bring you a collection of dramatic photos showing the pain of playoff losses.
Check them out:
Wild-Card Round Baltimore Ravens 24, Indianapolis Colts 9 It's hard to fault rookie QB Andrew Luck and the Colts for losing early, but it still stung for a team that overcame so much -- including coach Chuck Pagano's inspirational fight with leukemia. Rob Carr/Getty Images Houston Texans 19, Cincinnati Bengals 13 For the second straight year, Brian Leonard and the Bengals' season ended at the hands of Houston. AP Photo/Eric Gay Green Bay Packers 24, Minnesota Vikings 10 Minnesota's mad rush to make the playoffs ended quickly for Marvin Mitchell and the Vikings, who couldn't overcome their rivals at Lambeau Field. Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports Seattle Seahawks 24, Washington Redskins 14 It wasn't just a loss for Washington. For Robert Griffin III, it was a game that exacerbated a lingering knee injury -- one that puts his status for the start of 2013 in jeopardy. AP Photo/Evan Vucci Divisional Round Baltimore Ravens 38, Denver Broncos 35 (2 OT) Peyton Manning's playoff struggles continued, as the first-year Broncos QB couldn't cash in on a 13-3 regular-season record, throwing two picks (one in OT) and falling to 9-11 all-time in the postseason. Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports San Francisco 49ers 45, Green Bay Packers 31 Again Clay Matthews and the Packers' season ended in this round, although this year on the road. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez Atlanta Falcons 30, Seattle Seahawks 28 The Seahawks' pain came not just from losing, but how they lost -- after turning a 27-7 deficit into a 28-27 lead with just 31 seconds left, Seattle allowed Atlanta to drive for the game-winning field goal. AP Photo/David Goldman New England Patriots 41, Houston Texans 28 Arian Foster's fantastic season -- one that started so promisingly for the Houston Texans -- ended on the road for the second straight year in the divisional round. Jared Wickerham/Getty Images Conference Championship Round Baltimore Ravens 28, New England Patriots 13 He started his playoff career 10-0 and with three Super Bowl titles. But now, after his team let go of a 13-7 halftime lead, Tom Brady is just 7-7 since -- with no championships. Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports San Francisco 49ers 28, Atlanta Falcons 24 The season ended for the Atlanta Falcons, who blew a 17-0 first-half lead. But the loss might mean more: For future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, his career most likely is over. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
To see more photos like this, visit The Agony of Defeat on Tumblr.