Since FX's 1980s-set spy yarn is still in its freshman season — and still suffering from comparisons to Showtime's Homeland — its best bets for nominations are probably in the acting categories for Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Noah Emmerich, though their chances might be hampered by their lack of Emmy history.
Though A&E's attempt to out-AMC AMC with its moody Psycho prequel has scored big in the ratings, it isn't so much the series but rather Oscar-nominated star Vera Farmiga who stands the best chance of receiving a nom.
HBO's Prohibition-era shoot-'em-up had a superlative season. But because this category is more crowded than a Game of Thrones cast party — and the show has never generated as much heat as its gangsters have packed — it might not be able to eke out a third consecutive nomination. On the other hand, Bobby Cannavale — so good as the year's Big Bad, Gyp Rosetti — is all but assured a third guest actor nom. (He won in 2005 for Will & Grace and earned a second nom for Nurse Jackie in 2012.)
BREAKING BAD (Drama Series)
Nominations for AMC's meth-fueled hit and its stars — three-time lead actor winner Bryan Cranston and two-time supporting actor winner Aaron Paul — should be no-brainers. The fact that the series' last season was an abbreviated eight episodes long — and those episodes aired a summer ago! — might, if only slightly, diminish its chances. However, the launch of the final eight-episode installment will coincide with the kickoff of the second phase of Emmy voting, with the media and marketing blitz surrounding likely to keep the show on voters' minds.
Passed over for the Emmy twice already, DirecTV's now-dead-and-buried legal thriller has virtually no shot at being nominated this year. The same can't be said of star Glenn Close, who's already taken home the lead actress prize in 2008 and 2009.
Showtime's serial-killer thriller finally played its trump card last season — by revealing the title character's deadly pastime to sorta-sister Deb. Nonetheless, its time might have passed: 2012 marked the first year that it wasn't nominated since 2007! So it will probably have to settle for a nom for five-time nominee Michael C. Hall or, if it's really lucky, a first for Jennifer Carpenter.
PBS' acclaimed period piece might no longer be quite as hot as a cup of tea fit for the Dowager Countess. But the pop-culture phenomenon did rebound from a shaky second season with a more warmly reviewed third. And it kept people talking by killing off two major characters (RIP, Matthew and Sybil!). If nothing else, count on a supporting actress nomination for Dame Maggie Smith, who already won twice (once when the show was nominated as a miniseries, then again when it entered the drama race).
As poorly as broadcast drams fare at the Emmys, CBS' modern-day take on Sherlock Holmes is about as likely to be nominated as its lead detective is to miss a clue. Its only chances are noms for Jonny Lee Miller or Lucy Liu (a contender for Ally McBeal all the way back in 1999!).
If there's one thing the Emmys love, it's movie stars doing television. So although Fox's Kevin Williamson chiller probably won't scare up a nom, matinee idol Kevin Bacon could.
GAME OF THRONES (Drama Series)
No longer a niche hit, HBO's mainstream breakout — buoyed by rising ratings and message-board hysteria — is a lock for a third consecutive nomination. Unfortunately, the cast is so large that it's nearly impossible for voters to single out any one performer. Well, any one performer, that is, except for two-time nominee and 2011 supporting actor victor Peter Dinklage.
THE GOOD WIFE (Drama Series)
Though passed over for a nomination in 2012, CBS' law-office drama-procedural hybrid could break back into the race this year — first, because it had a solid season, and second, because it's one of very few broadcast dramas that have any shot. Julianna Margulies (2011's lead actress victor) is also a safe bet to receive a nom.
New as it is, NBC's well-reviewed Silence of the Lambs prequel probably needn't set an extra place at dinner for Emmy. But, if for no other reason than making us forget Sir Anthony Hopkins' version of Dr. Lecter for a moment, Mads Mikkelsen deserves to be a contender.
HOMELAND (Drama Series)
In spite of complaints that, in its second season, the Showtime smash became a soap opera that reeked of too many red herrings, it is the series that finally stole away the Emmy from Mad Men. So, grumbling notwithstanding, it remains a lock for a second nomination. Mandy Patinkin might also sneak into the supporting actor race on the heels of last year's lead actor and lead actress wins for Damian Lewis and Claire Danes.
HOUSE OF CARDS
Speaking of how Emmy loves movie stars doing television, it definitely applies to two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey and his political drama. The only question is, will voters recognize the actor — a 2008 Emmy nominee for HBO's Recount — or the series? If the answer turns out to be both, leading lady Robin Wright — herself no stranger to the multiplex — could also get lucky.
Thanks to Margo Martindale's star turn two years ago as Mommie Dearest Mags Bennett, FX's modern-day Western was able to really bust into the Emmy derby. Now, buoyed by a well-reviewed fourth season, the show seems well-positioned to do so again.
The good news for AMC's crown jewel: Nicotine-stained though it may be, it still is AMC's prestige crown jewel. Therefore, a sixth consecutive nomination is a foregone conclusion. The bad news: So far, this season has had viewers and critics alike crying "been there, done that." Worse, it's yet to provide a showcase for any actor that might break the cast's stunning losing streak. (To date, not even Jon Hamm has won an Emmy.)
Just about any project that Connie Britton takes on becomes a contender (Friday Night Lights, American Horror Story). But even if three-time Emmy nominee Britton's track record isn't enough to get voters to recognize ABC's backstage soap opera, it's undoubtedly enough to bag her a fourth nod. And Britton's colead, Hayden Panettiere, also had many more chances to shine this season, which elevates her chances.
Though this HBO property is a freshman series, its creator is the ultimate Emmy catnip: Six-time winner Aaron Sorkin. Add to that mix the two Golden Globe nods the show received in December, and both it and leading man Jeff Daniels are looking pretty good to be nominated.
NBC's sleeper is coming off its strongest season yet, creatively speaking. But it's still a long shot for a nomination. (To date, only guest actor Jason Ritter has been recognized.) Its great white hope: Monica Potter, who shined in the storyline that found her character, Kristina Braverman, battling cancer.
SCANDAL (Drama Series)
Watercooler buzz doesn't get much louder than the fandemonium that surrounds this Shonda Rhimes sudser. If voters are willing to look past some of the D.C. drama's over-the-top plot twisting, not only the ABC hit but leading lady Kerry Washington — and supporting players Jeff Perry and Bellamy Young — could be on the receiving end of nominations.
At this point, William H. Macy's boozy Frank Gallagher has about as much of a shot of getting his hands on a top-shelf drink as his Showtime sleeper does of being nominated. However, the actor — as well as costar Emmy Rossum — have a chance.
SONS OF ANARCHY
As much as Emmy loves movie stars doing television, that's how much it hates bikers. That's the only way to explain how — even coming off its highest-rated season to date — FX's fringe hit still won't get a nomination. (And, odds are, it won't — so far, even badass Katey Sagal has been snubbed!)
Though TNT's gritty (and now cancelled) LAPD drama has long had critics behind it, the only Emmy love it's ever been shown was for stunt coordination! Its best — and probably last — chance to change that is a nom for Michael Cudlitz, who gave the performance of a lifetime in the episodes leading up to his tragic demise as Officer John Cooper.
After a promising first season, which earned star Patrick J. Adams a SAG nomination, USA's legal drama Suits upped its game in Season 2, especially its summer portion. While the network's main awards contender this year is Political Animals in the longform category, and Suits is a long shot, it could break into the acting categories with stars Adams and Gabriel Macht, scene-stealing supporting actor Rick Hoffman and recurring guest star Rachael Harris.
THE WALKING DEAD (Drama Series)
OK, if there's one thing Emmy hates more than bikers, it's ghouls. (See also: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood.) But, now that AMC's monster smash is cable's top drama, voters might not be able to look down their noses at it. So even if the series itself doesn't break in, perhaps at least Andrew Lincoln — on the heels of his spectacular meltdown as widowed Sheriff Rick Grimes — will earn a nom.