That shift in seeding played a key role in Patriots' season-ending defeat, as the Broncos benefited from home-field advantage while hitting Tom Brady an astounding 23 times in the AFC Championship Game.
The late-season slide responsible for New England's trip to Denver did not escape owner Bob Kraft's notice.
"I think if I have any regret," Kraft told Maria Stephanos of WCVB-TV in Boston on Wednesday, via ESPN.com, "it's that the conference championship game wasn't played here in our hometown."
Each NFL season is a battle against attrition and adversity. Unbeatable at peak strength through 10 games, the Patriots were a materially different team in December with a litany of injuries on the offensive line, at wide receiver and throughout the defense.
By the time they got reinforcements in mid-January, they were still missing home-field advantage, left tackle Nate Solder and dynamic pass-catching back Dion Lewis. Those three factors weighed heavily in the 20-18 fall at the hands of Wade Phillips' Denver defense.
Here's what else Kraft had to say on Wednesday:
» He lauded Bill Belichick and Tom Brady as "the greatest coach and quarterback of all time."
» Kraft had an interesting interaction with the head of football's first family at Super Bowl 50. "I happened to see Archie (Manning) there," Kraft said. "He has two sons who have won two Super Bowls (each). But with all due respect, we have one son who has won four."
» Although Kraft alluded to Deflategate and injuries as obstacles, he was amazed by the Patriots' mental toughness and "next man up" approach throughout the season.