Thursday night, the 2019 NFL season kicks off. It does so with the league's oldest rivalry, with the Green Bay Packers visiting the Chicago Bears. The Bears come off a season in which they traded for Khalil Mack, went to young and innovative head coach Matt Nagy and added seven wins en route to a 12-4 season and a division title. The Packers are coming off a disappointing 6-9-1 season in which Aaron Rodgers was banged up, but they plan on flipping the script now with their own new head coach in Matt LaFleur. It should be fun. 

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Anyway, the Chicago-Wisconsin rivalry won't only be on the gridiron Thursday night. Roughly one hour before the Packers-Bears game kicks off, the Cubs-Brewers first pitch takes place in Miller Park, starting off a four-game series. It's a big one, especially for the Brewers. Here are some things to know. 

This could be the Brewers' last stand

The Brewers, who won the NL Central in 2018 and got to Game 7 of the NLCS, are four games behind the Cubs and 6 1/2 out in the Central. This is a four-game series. Do the math. The results in this series leave the Brewers anywhere from tied with the Cubs for the second NL wild card or eight back of it. 

Even a split would feel like a nail in the coffin for the Brewers. Four games in three weeks with no head-to-head games left is an uphill journey. 

The Cubs have been awful on the road, but ...

The Cubs are 28-39 on the road. Only the Reds, Rockies and Marlins have been worse away from home this season in the National League. They are 2-4 in Miller Park so far this season, too. 

The Cubs might have found a way to turn the tide away from the Friendly Confines, though. 

After a pair of brutal, late-inning meltdowns, the Cubs have now won five straight road games. Last week, they swept the Mets in Citi Field with three well-played games. Still, they just went 18 innings without scoring a run against the Brewers at home, and ...

The Brewers are excellent at home, particularly their MVP

The Brewers are 40-30 at home this season, which is a 162-game pace of 93 wins. That's not exactly in "unbeatable" territory and in fact they split their last home series and lost the previous one, but they are still very good in Miller Park. The Cubs might try not pitching to Christian Yelich this series, by the way. He is hitting .341/.438/.749 with 26 homers at home this season. 

Kyle Schwarber is on fire

Arbitrary endpoint alert: Starting with the game where Schwarber had a grand slam and a three-run homer in Miller Park on July 28, he has been completely locked in. In his last 33 games, a span of 114 plate appearances, Schwarber is hitting .289/.395/.701 with five doubles, a triple, 11 homers and 30 RBI. The average is low, but he's slugging a career best .515. 

The Cubs might finally be healthy

This Cubs' window of contention has featured a core four of position players in Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras. They've rarely been 100 percent at the same time this season. All four have either been on the injured list, unavailable or playing through stuff all year. Contreras came off the injured list Tuesday and homered in his first at-bat. Bryant and Baez were unavailable, though, but are expected to be good for go for this series. Rizzo recently returned from a back injury, too. 

Having all four good to go with Nicholas Castellanos on hand and Schwarber swinging it like he is means the Cubs can roll out their most potent lineups of the year. 

The Brewers are pitching really well

It's a small sample, but the Brewers have allowed five earned runs in the last four games to the Cubs and Astros. Going back a bit further, they've allowed three runs or fewer in nine of their last 14 games. In that stretch, they've posted a staff ERA of 3.39. In their last 12, it's 2.89. The rotation has dealt with injury and underperformance all season, but somehow they've mostly been getting the job done this past few weeks. A big key has been Jordan Lyles, who they added to little fanfare in front of the trade deadline. He's posted a 2.56 ERA in seven starts. Unfortunately for the Brewers, their other four starts go in this series. Adrian Houser starts Sunday and he's pitched to a 1.63 ERA in his last five starts. 

Scoreboard watching

Surely both the Cubs and Brewers care about what the Cardinals are doing this weekend, but it's not very likely they are going to be happy. The Cardinals have a three-game series starting Friday in Pittsburgh against the hapless Pirates. In fact, this series could end up being very advantageous to the Cardinals. If they sweep while the Cubs and Brewers split, the chances of a division title just went way up. Actually, even the Brewers sweeping would be a huge help, in this scenario, as the Cardinals hold a 6 1/2 game lead over the Brewers right now.