Last year was the Weird Emmys. Remember? Jeff Daniels beat heavy-hitters like Bryan Cranston. Merritt Wever won for Nurse Jackie, prompting a collective "Who?" from the audience. There was a bizarre, TV show-inspired dance number that resulted in Breaking Bad breakdancing.
This year might be even weirder. The 66th Annual Emmy Awards air on a Monday, and a month earlier than usual, prompted in part by NBC's need to avoid conflict with NFL games. Throw in a bunch of category fraud (miniseries like True Detective competing in the Drama field), a slew of new nominees (Orange is the New Black!) and a first-time host (Seth Meyers), and we could be in for an unpredictable night.
So then let's make some predictions! As Daniels' win reminded us last year, it's impossible to know why the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences votes the way they do. But we know what the Emmys tend to favor (past winners, movie stars, buzzy shows), so here's who is most likely to win in the big categories Monday night, plus a second-place pick, because nothing is certain in Emmy land.
Game of Thrones
House of Cards
HBO made a bold move submitting True Detective in this category when it's really a miniseries. (It's coming back for a second season with an entirely new cast and story.) Will it pay off? Detective's auteur qualities — the first season was written by one guy and directed by another — and its high-profile stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson put it neck-and-neck with Breaking Bad, nominated here for the last half of its final season. But Bad will take this one. As the reigning champ in this category, it spent much of 2013 basking in adoration as its final eight episodes created a relentless momentum that culminated in one of the show's strongest runs.
On second thought ... This particular iteration of True Detective was a one-time thing; perhaps the Emmys will feel strongly that they have to honor it.
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Matthew McConaughey, True Detective
Woody Harrelson, True Detective
Sure, it's three-time winner Bryan Cranston's final year to win for Breaking Bad. But the academy didn't even deem him worthy over Daniels last year. Plus, he's competing against Matthew McConaughey, who was in prime McConaissance mode when True Detective aired. The Emmys won't turn down a chance to honor such a talked-about, tour-de-force performance from a recent Oscar winner.
On second thought ... Bryan Cranston's submission episode is "Ozymandias," also known as the one in which Walter is forced out of his home at knifepoint and the one with the phone call between him and Skyler. It felt like Cranston's entire career-defining Breaking Bad performance had been building to this memorable episode, and he nailed it.
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Claire Danes, Homeland
Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Two-time winner Claire Danes doesn't have as much momentum going into this year's show; Homeland's third season isn't even nominated for Drama Series. So we're going with The Good Wife's Julianna Margulies, a former winner who had a standout year on a show that got plenty of headlines this season for a shocking death.
On second thought ... If the Emmys want to honor Masters of Sex (and judging by its snub in the Drama Series category, it's not clear they do), they'd give this one to its star Lizzy Caplan, who sparkles as sex researcher Virginia Johnson.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Aaron Paul winning a third statue for his role as Jesse Pinkman is likely, especially if the Emmy love for Breaking Bad is strong.
On second thought ... With last year's winner Bobby Canavale out of the mix, this category is wide open. The academy could honor Jon Voight for Ray Donovan simply because he's a heavy-hitting Oscar-winner.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey
Anna Gunn won in this category last year, and she didn't even have this year's "Ozymandias," a top-notch actor's showcase, as her submission episode. Especially compared to the rest of her fellow nominees, Gunn's rich and complex work is in a league of its own.
On second thought ... I'd be surprised to see Gunn lose, but Emmy fave Maggie Smith is always a possibility.
Big Bang Theory
Orange Is the New Black
Will this be the year another comedy contender unseats Modern Family from its Emmy throne? The ABC hit has won this award every year it's been on the air; surely it's time to give someone else a shot. That someone could very well be Orange is the New Black, the Netflix show that came out of nowhere with its first season in 2013 (the one nominated) yet quickly became one of the most ubiquitous.
On second thought ... Did we mention Modern Family has won this award every year it's been on the air?
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Louis CK, Louie
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
William H. Macy, Shameless
Ricky Gervais, Derek
Jim Parsons has won this award three times, each time for The Big Bang Theory, which is currently one of the most-watched shows on TV and arguably more popular now that it's ever been. He's tough to bet against.
On second thought ... William H. Macy is in this category under somewhat false pretenses; his show Shameless decided to submit itself as a comedy this year after years of submitting as a drama. Could the academy use this as a chance to honor the movie star's work on that show?
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly
Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black
Like Parsons, there's no good reason Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who won this category the past two years for her role on Veep, won't win again. It helps that she's giving the most consistently funny performance on TV.
On second thought ... If Emmy voters like Orange is the New Black but don't honor it anywhere else, maybe Taylor Schilling pulls this one off. It's not likely though.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Adam Driver, Girls
Andrew Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
Fred Armisen, Portlandia
Tony Hale, Veep
It's the first time since Modern Family premiered that at least three of its actor haven't been nominated in this category. In the past, we wouldn't have picked against them; with last year's win going to Veep's Tony Hale, the door is open for another actor outside the Family to win. Two-time Emmy winner Andre Braugher should claim the prize for his hilarious straight-man turn on Brooklyn Nine.
On second thought ... If anyone is going to beat Braugher, it's probably previous winner Tony Hale.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Allison Janney, Mom
Kate Mulgrew, Orange Is the New Black
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
If there's one thing the Emmys love, it's giving Emmys to people who already have them. So it's likely that Allison Janney, already a FIVE-time winner, could win for her spirited role on Mom. If she does, it'll be her second Emmy just this year — she nabbed one for her guest role on Masters of Sex at the creative arts Emmy ceremony Saturday.
On second thought ... This could be a big year for Orange is the New Black, which has 12 nominations going into Monday's show. That puts veteran actor Kate Mulgrew in a good position to get recognized for her turn as Red, even more so than Schilling.