One could certainly make a case that the only reason the Cowboys finished with even a record as middling as 8-8 was because they played a pretty weak schedule this season.
The Cowboys only beat one team that finished at 8-8 or better, the 49ers in Week 2. The other seven wins all came against clubs that will be picking ahead of the Cowboys in April's draft - St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Washington, Miami, Seattle and Buffalo.
After finishing 6-10 in 2010, this year's third-place schedule was supposed to help the Cowboys, but they split with Tampa and Detroit, fellow third-place finishers in the NFC, the only two games on the schedule that are determined by the previous season's record.
Next season, the Cowboys will play the third-place schedule again. The slate looks tough overall because it includes three games against playoff teams from the AFC North alone, and four more from the NFC (two against the Giants, plus Atlanta and New Orleans). It's worth mentioning, however, that the rest of the NFC East has to play all of those teams as well.
All told, the 2011 record of the Cowboys' 2012 opponents is 129-127, the exact same as the 2010 record of the clubs they played this past season, 129-127. These things changes, but on paper the schedule is just as hard (or easy) as it was in 2011.
Finishing third in the NFC East for the second straight year earned the Cowboys a home game against Chicago, and a road trip to Seattle.