Mike McCarthy hates the question.

He bristled when asked it again Tuesday outside the Arizona Biltmore hotel, site of the NFL annual meetings: Are the Green Bay Packers a physical enough football team?

“Yes,” McCarthy said, “we’re a physical team.”

Perhaps the 2013 season forever will allow McCarthy to put that issue to bed. This season, the Packers’ four AFC crossover games come against the rugged North division, still considered to be the toughest division in that conference, akin to what the NFC Central was in its “black-and-blue” days.

“I’d like to think that it does,” Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said when asked whether the AFC North still has a tough-guy reputation. “But obviously it depends on the teams we field year in and year out throughout the division. We believe that we’re as tough a division as there is in football.”

The Packers will play Tomlin’s Steelers and the Cleveland Browns at home and will travel to the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. The dates will be announced next month. The last time the Packers went through the AFC North, they managed a split of the four games. In 2009, they beat Baltimore at home and Cleveland on the road and lost at Pittsburgh and home against Cincinnati.

“It’s very physical,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said of his division. “Any time we play the crossover games, I think everybody realizes how physical the division is.”