FOXBORO, Mass. — There's a cliche in sports that goes something like, "We'll control what we can control and worry about ourselves."

That’s all well and good, and teams that prescribe to that notion often fare better than those that spend too much time worrying about outside factors. But, in the middle of answering a question Wednesday, Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork broke off topic and alluded to the elephant in the room — or, on paper, whichever you prefer.

"Everybody we're playing is playoff teams," Wilfork said in regard to the 2010 schedule. "Our schedule is tough, but at the same time, we have to go to work. Everybody we're playing is a pretty good team, but [we're] excited about this year. That’s the way I'm trying to approach it, and I hope my teammates approach it the same way."

It's true. The Patriots' schedule is a gauntlet of postseason contestants — they'll play eight games against 2009 playoff teams, including two, obviously, against the Jets — and it's not going to be an easy ride in 2010 by any stretch of the imagination. New England's opponents were a combined 136-120 in 2009, making it the sixth-toughest schedule in the NFL and the most difficult slate among AFC East teams.

Handling that schedule, of course, will start in-house, but it's apparent the Patriots are already well aware of the grueling challenge that looms ahead.