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2013 NFL schedule: Dallas Cowboys playoff contenders

Based on opponents' 2012 records, the best candidates to emerge as dark-horse playoff contenders this season are in the AFC West and NFC East.

Four of the five easiest schedules belong to the four AFC West squads.

The Denver Broncos are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, while the Oakland Raiders likely will be in the chase for the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft.

That leaves the San Diego Chargers and the re-tooled Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chargers lucked into the second-easiest schedule. Among the five teams with the strongest rosters in the NFL, only the intra-divisional Broncos appear on the docket. The Chargers also have the benefit of playing at home in their two "Monday Night Football" games against the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts.

The two weakest rosters in the NFL comprise three games on San Diego's schedule.

In addition to the league's fifth-easiest schedule, the Chiefs have made significant upgrades at quarterback and in the secondary. If Chargers general manager Tom Telesco addresses the offensive line early in the draft, the Chargers and Chiefs could end up battling for one wild-card spot.

With head coach Chip Kellythreatening to revolutionize the NFL, the Eagles already are a trendy pick to bounce back from their 4-12 record from last season. One of the most active teams in free agency, the Eagles now have the benefit of a schedule that is in the bottom-third of the league in difficulty.

The 2012 non-playoff team that has perhaps the best chance of advancing deep into the postseason this year is the Dallas Cowboys. Returning a relatively strong roster, the Cowboys face just one of NFL's top-five powerhouses. It can be argued fairly that every game on their schedule is winnable.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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