IRVING, Texas - Terrell Owens can take his time recovering from a high ankle sprain. The Dallas Cowboys have clinched home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

Dallas locked up the No. 1 seed in the conference yesterday with Green Bay losing to Chicago. While the Cowboys (13-2) and Packers (12-3) could still wind up with the same record, Dallas owns the tiebreaker because it won a head-to-head matchup.

"What we have accomplished to this point is the result of a great effort by our players and coaches. They've earned everything that they have achieved this year," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "We still have a lot of work to do. Securing the home field is important, but our guys understand that we have to continue to take care of business one week at a time."

Owens actually will have three weeks - until Jan. 12 or 13 - to heal the left-ankle injury sustained in the second quarter of Saturday night's 20-10 victory over Carolina.

X-rays showed no break, and Owens left the stadium on crutches but smiling and wearing a Santa hat. He vowed to be ready for the playoffs, and an MRI exam yesterday showed no further damage, confirming the original diagnosis of a high ankle sprain.

No timetable is set for Owens' return, but he is unlikely to play in Sunday's finale at Washington. There is no purpose, really, as the only thing that will be at stake for the Cowboys is a franchise-record 14th victory.

Dallas already has tied the club record of 13 set by the 1992 team, the first Super Bowl champion for Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith.

That team did not have home-field advantage in the playoffs, but the championship teams in 1993 and 1995 did. This is the first time Dallas has been the No. 1 seed since then.

Since beating the Packers on Nov. 29, the Cowboys have struggled in three straight games. Yet they managed to win two of them.

Against the Panthers, Dallas overcame Owens' injury, Roy Williams' suspension, and the drama surrounding Tony Romo's thumb injury and love life to get in position to clinch home field yesterday.

The Cowboys have not hosted a playoff game since 1998 and have not won a postseason game since 1996.