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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Bengals’ Duke Tobin says NFL teams should fear the AFC North: ‘It’s a physical division’

CINCINNATI, Ohio – The AFC North will be a force to be reckoned with in 2023.

That’s according to Duke Tobin, the Bengals’ player director of player personnel, who knows the AFC North is a challenging place.

In 2020, the Steelers, Browns and Ravens all made the postseason, with the Browns and Ravens each reaching the divisional round. The Bengals reached the Super Bowl a year later before making another AFC title game appearance last season.

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Joining Pat McAfee on “The Pat McAfee Show” on Thursday, along with former Bengals cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, Tobin discussed the AFC North’s competitiveness both now and in the years to come. He acknowledged the Bengals’ own success and made sure to give fair credit to his fellow divisional foes.

“Pittsburgh’s not going away, Baltimore’s not going away and Cleveland has got a lot of talented guys and we’ve had a heck of a time beating them year over year. It’s just a division that never disappears,” Tobin said.

“We might like some of the teams to disappear,” he joked.

Based on the Bengals’ recent success and the previous runs the Browns and Ravens both made in 2020, Tobin said he’s a firm believer that the AFC North is a respected division that can win championships. He said that any team that faces the AFC North champions in the postseason will have their hands full.

“We always felt like, if you could win our division, you’ve got a team that can beat the other division. You got a team that can win it all. If you’re the AFC North champ, you got a team that’s a contender – a contender for the Super Bowl,” Tobin said.

AFC North teams have boasted an impressive 111-86-1 record since 2020. Tobin laid out the comprehensive reasons why he believes the division has been one of the best in football.

“It’s a physical division. You’ve gotta be big enough, you’ve gotta be man enough and you’ve gotta stop the run. You’ve gotta be able to play in inclement weather. You’ve gotta be able to play in hostile crowds. You’ve gotta slow down the pass rush. There’s always a pass rush in our division,” Tobin said.

Cliche or not, he’s not wrong about the inclement weather in places like Cleveland and Cincinnati. Having edge rushers like Trey Hendrickson, Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt also creates for a challenging pass rush to block against.

If teams outside of the AFC North haven’t gotten the memo yet, this just might be it.

“It hasn’t changed, and I don’t see it changing moving forward,” Tobin said.

Mohammad Ahmad covers the Bengals for cleveland.com. You can follow him on Twitter @MohammadAhmadTV and read all his coverage at StrictlyStripes.com.

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