Derby are certainties to return to the Championship after just one season in the top flight, standing 14 points and a huge goal difference from safety after 21 league games without a win.
However, Sunderland skipper Whitehead insists they must not underestimate the Rams and told the Sunderland Echo: "Everyone knows how badly Derby are doing this season, but there really are no easy games in the Premier League.
"We'll go there with the right attitude and knowing that we'll have to work very hard to get anything. They'll be as desperate and keen as we are to get a result and you know that any side at this level is capable of getting a result.
"But we know we need to do a lot better away from home and we'll go to Derby looking to put things right."