Before I could shut off my television, disconsolate like many Pats fans after their 20-18 loss to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game, I was met by a sobering thought.

I have now entered The Dead Zone.

I’m not going to bother with a Patriots’ postmortem. It’s been less than 24 hours since they lost and already the armchair quarterbacks have come out of the wood works, including me. Last night, while licking my wounds and watching Carolina decimate Arizona, I posted the following to my Facebook account:

“This one is on Belichick. Denver outplayed them and deserved to win this game, but if the Pats actively pursued home field advantage (i.e. stopped with the rugby kicks against shit-bag Philly, or had some type of offensive game plan against Miami, or took the ball in OT against the Jets) this game is in Gillette with a different result. I think Bill’s arrogance finally caught up with him. It’s a classic tale of hubris.”

And so on, and so forth. Having had a day to reflect, I realize the long and short of it is Denver’s defense was outstanding, and the Pats O-line was nonexistent. Four of my friends and I could’ve been equally effective protecting Tom Brady. You can blame Belichick, blame Brady, blame Gostkowski, the altitude, the refs, or if you’re Sarah Palin, blame Obama, but the Pats got beat. It really is that simple.

More daunting for me than the loss, however, is the fact that I now begin the season of existential dread that I refer to as The Dead Zone, or the period between the end of the Pats’ season and the first day that Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Fort Myers.

From now until Feb. 18, I will be a vision of despair, a character plucked from a Dostoevsky novel, shaking his fist at the heavens.

You see, I have a hard time following hockey until the playoffs and I don’t watch basketball at all. This is certainly no slight against Celtics and Bruins’ fans; it’s simply a personal preference. I’m solely a football and baseball guy. Therefore, I’m left without anything, no sports to follow. It’s an exercise in abject misery for me.

The worst part of The Dead Zone for me, however, is the nagging sense of ennui. I simply don’t know what to do with myself. Sports, and the anticipation of sporting events, pass my time during the year. They give me something to latch on to and alleviate the drudgery of day-to-day living.

On top of this, the weather is also dismal, cold and unrelenting in New England, and we’re mostly stuck inside of our houses, catatonic in front of computers, televisions and social media. If the Pats could’ve squeezed out a win, I would’ve had two weeks of reprieve while waiting for the Super Bowl, limiting The Dead Zone to a mere 11 days.

But now it’s gone, and The Dead Zone is upon me, and I shudder anticipating the next four weeks. Maybe I’ll try to make the best of it. Maybe, instead of consuming my body weight in red meat and carbonated beverages every weekend, I’ll use this time to go to the gym and get in shape. Maybe it won’t kill me to watch The Food Network with my wife some night. Maybe I’ll learn to dance.

Maybe as The Dead Zones comes to an end, I’ll be a better man for having survived it.

Or maybe not. It’s only 24 days until pitchers and catchers report.