Poor starts doomed the San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings to disappointing seasons in 2010.
Both would like to keep that from happening again, but only one will open 2011 with a victory.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers will try to prove they're back among the NFL's elite and spoil Donovan McNabb's Vikings debut Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.
San Diego and Minnesota struggled to overcome 2-5 starts last season, and eventually missed the playoffs after winning their respective divisions in 2009.
The Chargers won seven of their final nine games but a 9-7 finish was a huge underachievement for a team coming off four straight AFC West titles.
"Definitely not going to the playoffs after four straight years and five of six, all I know is that for that to happen was a shock. It was humbling," said safety Eric Weddle, who signed a five-year, $40 million contract in July. "We're not going to let it happen again."
Slow starts are nothing new for Norv Turner's team, which opened 2-3 in 2009 and 2008 and 1-3 in 2007 in his first season in San Diego.
Rivers is motivated to change that, and is coming off one of his best seasons. He had a career-high 4,710 passing yards with 30 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and a 101.8 passer rating, leading the Chargers to the NFL's top-ranked offense.
"Ultimately, I think you're measured by winning football games and we've won a lot of games, but we've fallen short," Rivers said. "That's the ultimate goal here is to lead this team to a championship.
"We can't let the critical errors creep in."
One area San Diego identified for improvement is preventing turnovers after committing 29 last season. The Chargers totaled a league-low 76 over the previous four years.
"The key for us offensively is to protect the ball," Rivers said. "We turn it over way too many times early in the year last year. You look back on seasons where we've won a bunch of games, we've took care of the football."
The Vikings went 6-10 last season, and had their own problems with the ball, turning it over 37 times to tie for second-most in the NFC while more than doubling their total from the previous season. That included 19 interceptions from Brett Favre, who finally retired after two years in Minnesota.
"I think the next level for us is just restoring what we had here in 2009, that confidence and swagger that we can get back to the playoffs," said linebacker Chad Greenway, who led the NFC with 143 tackles.
Part of that responsibility will fall on McNabb, who replaces Favre and is looking to rebound from a rocky season with Washington. He lost his starting job with the Redskins late in the season after throwing 14 touchdowns and a career-high 15 picks.
Leslie Frazier, who was named Vikings coach in the offseason after an interim spell, is impressed with McNabb's leadership abilities.
"He's been great with his teammates," Frazier said. "He's done a great job picking up a new offense, and really improved all throughout the preseason. His interaction with his teammates has been great for our team chemistry, which is one of the reasons I feel good about our football team.
"He's very concerned about the team, and that's a big deal."
Unlike in Washington, McNabb has some big-time offensive weapons at his disposal in running back Adrian Peterson and wide receiver Percy Harvin.
Over the past four seasons, Peterson's leads the NFL with 5,782 rushing yards and 52 TDs. He totaled 1,298 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, but was much improved with just one fumble after totaling 20 over his first three seasons.
Peterson set a league record with 296 yards on 30 carries, leading the Vikings to a 35-17 win in the most recent meeting with the Chargers on Nov. 4, 2007.
Harvin caught 71 passes for 868 yards with five touchdowns in his second NFL season.
The Chargers, meanwhile, hope to have a full season with top targets Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson.
Gates led San Diego with 10 receiving touchdowns while accumulating 782 yards on 50 catches, but missed six games with a foot injury.
Jackson was limited to five games due to a contract dispute and calf injury. He had 248 yards and 14 receptions with three touchdowns - all coming in a Week 15 rout of San Francisco.
While the offense is looking to remain among the best in the NFL, so is the defense after adding experience in linebackers Na'il Diggs and Takeo Spikes.
"The biggest concern we have at the linebacker position is our youth," Turner told the team's official website.
The Chargers and Vikings have split 10 meetings with San Diego taking the latest matchup at Qualcomm Stadium on Nov. 9, 2003.
Slow starts mar Chargers' recent history
Viking Update Top Stories
Notebook: Problems extended beyond pass proThe Minnesota Vikings had obvious problems with pass protection, but there are other areas head coach Mike Zimmer is addressing, too.
Viking Update7:41 PM
Vikings will look at ‘all options’ to improveComing off a loss that Mike Zimmer termed “embarrassing,” a 21-10 defeat against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Minnesota Vikings will look at all options to rectify the situation.
Viking Update2:42 PM
VIDEO: Zimmer: 'This is a gut-check day'Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer recapped the first loss of the season by pointing out "several dumb things" he found to be uncharacteristic of his team.
Viking Update1:06 PM
Counting snaps: Vikings vs. EaglesDespite a “soft” performance on the offensive line, according to coach Mike Zimmer, the Minnesota Vikings seemed interested in getting a rotation going there.
Viking Update6:23 AM
Holler: R-E-L-A-XMike Zimmer wasn't kind in his assessment of the Minnesota Vikings Sunday following their humbling 21-10 loss to Philadelphia, but it isn't as though the season is going down the…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 10:11 PM