Emmy predictions: Who will win, who deserves to win and who could surprise us all

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell: Is this the year “The Americans” finally wins an Emmy? (Photo by Eric Liebowitz, FX)

After years of fans crying foul, “The Americans” finally got some Emmy nomination love — but can the FX Cold War drama actually win? Will anyone break the “Veep” stranglehold on the comedy categories? Could James Corden defeat John Oliver in battle of the talk show hosts?

Before the Emmy Awards on Sunday night (airing at 8 p.m. ET on ABC), we take a look at the major match-ups and make some predictions:


“Downton Abbey” (PBS) “Game of Thrones” (HBO) “Mr. Robot” (USA) “House of Cards” (Netflix) “Homeland” (Showtime) “The Americans” (FX) “Better Call Saul” (AMC)

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Will probably win: “The Americans” Time for the TV academy to make up for lost time, given that they ignored this dynamic drama for so long.

Deserves to win: “Mr. Robot” Say what you will about the current second season, but the first was an exciting reminder of what it takes to create a groundbreaking new series.

Dark horse: “Game of Thrones” If “The Americans” doesn’t pull through, “GoT” will win it all — maybe if it keeps winning, it won’t go away!


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Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot” (USA) Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards” (Netflix) Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul” (AMC) Kyle Chandler, “Bloodline” (Netflix) Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan” (Showtime) Matthew Rhys, “The Americans” (FX)

Will probably win: Rami Malek The breakout newcomer stole the show and would easily be the most exciting choice in a field of regulars.

Deserves to win: Bob Odenkirk It’s not easy when you have to follow “Breaking Bad,” but Odenkirk has helped effortlessly elevate this spin-off.

Dark horse: Kevin Spacey Even though “House of Cards” has completely gone off the rails (and maybe was never even that good?), the voters just cannot resist Spacey.

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Claire Danes, “Homeland” (Showtime) Viola Davis, “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC) Taraji P. Henson, “Empire” (Fox) Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black” (BBC America) Robin Wright, “House of Cards” (Netflix) Keri Russell, “The Americans” (FX)

Will probably win: Viola Davis The Oscar nominee easily carries the increasingly-crazy “How to Get Away With Murder” every week, so something tells us she’ll win this category for a second year in a row.

Deserves to win: Taraji P. Henson Yes, we can all agree the second season of “Empire” is ridiculous, but you can’t take your eyes of Cookie Lyon.

Dark horse: Keri Russell She’s a longtime favorite of the industry, so voters might lean Russell’s way to give “The Americans” a trophy in at least one major category.


Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul” (AMC) Ben Mendelsohn, “Bloodline” (Netflix) Jim Carter, “Downton Abbey” (PBS) Peter Dinklage, “Game Of Thrones” (HBO) Kit Harington, “Game Of Thrones” (HBO) Michael Kelly “House Of Cards” (Netflix) Jon Voight, “Ray Donovan” (Showtime)

Will probably win: Peter Dinklage “Game of Thrones” is still on fire heading into its final years, and Dinklage has won this trophy twice before so … why not?

Deserves to win: Kit Harington Ditto about “Game of Thrones,” and Harington deserves some attention in his first year in the category.

Dark horse: Kit Harington Honestly, if it’s not Dinklage, it will be Harington. This is a “GoT” category.


Maura Tierney, “The Affair” (Showtime) Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey” (PBS) Lena Headey, “Game Of Thrones” (HBO) Emilia Clarke, “Game Of Thrones” (HBO) Maisie Williams, “Game of Thrones” (HBO) Constance Zimmer, “UnREAL” (Lifetime)

Will probably win: Lena Headey It’s a “Game of Thrones” world, we’re just living in it. But Headey really was an unstoppable force as Cersei Lannister went from tragedy to triumph.

Deserves to win: Maura Tierney Tierney straight-up owned the second season of “The Affair” as she tried to move on from her husband’s infidelity during his pretty lame mid-life crisis.

Dark horse: Maggie Smith Voters love her, and shouldn’t they give “Downton Abbey” some sort of going-away present?


“Modern Family” (ABC) “Veep” (HBO) “Silicon Valley” (HBO) “Transparent” (Amazon) “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix) “Black-ish” (ABC) “Master of None” (Netflix)

Will probably win: “Veep” The industry favorite HBO comedy snapped the “Modern Family” five-year winning streak last year, and will probably continue after a strong season.

Deserves to win: “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” The Tina Fey-produced Netflix comedy is probably too weird to win the big prize, but it’s a prime example of tackling taboo topics in a hilarious way.

Dark horse: “Black-ish” The ABC series just had its breakout year, with both its stars nominated in the leading acting categories — don’t count it out.


William H. Macy, “Shameless” (Showtime) Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent” (Amazon) Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish” (ABC) Will Forte, “Last Man on Earth” (Fox) Aziz Ansari, “Master of None” (Netflix) Thomas Middleditch, “Silicon Valley” (HBO)

Will probably win: Jeffrey Tambor While the buzz for “Transparent” has quieted, Tambor’s dynamic performance shines through, and should pick up his second win in a row.

Deserves to win: Anthony Anderson It’s hard to stand out on a sitcom when you have kids as cute as the ones on “Black-ish,” but Anderson knocks it out of the park as the patriarch.

Dark horse: Aziz Ansari Ansari’s nomination was a bit surprising (acting isn’t really the strong suit in “Master of None”) but if voters like him enough to put him in this tough category, he may walk away with the whole thing.


Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep” (HBO) Amy Schumer “Inside Amy Schumer” (Comedy Central) Lily Tomlin “Grace and Frankie” (Netflix) Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix) Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish” (ABC) Laurie Metcalf, “Getting On” (HBO)

Will probably win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus Is it ever not going to be Julia Louis-Dreyfus?

Deserves to win: Ellie Kemper She deserves huge credit for pulling off the often deranged situations in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” as the damaged, unnervingly sunny central character.

Dark horse: Amy Schumer Schumer is as polarizing as ever, and the latest sketches from her show didn’t go viral this time around, but lots of voters love her work.


Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” Fox Keegan-Michael Key, “Key & Peele” (Comedy Central) Ty Burrell, “Modern Family” (ABC) Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix) Tony Hale, “Veep” (HBO) Louie Anderson, “Baskets” (FX) Matt Walsh, “Veep” (HBO)

Will probably win: Tony Hale He won last year and in 2013 as the ever-loyal Gary, and “Veep” shows no sign of slowing down.

Deserves to win: Andre Braugher If there was anything funnier than Braugher’s normally-stoic police captain character becoming delirious when he got the mumps this season, we haven’t seen it.

Dark horse: Ty Burrell He continues to be the standout on “Modern Family,” and there’s a chance voters could slip back into their broadcast TV-leaning ways.


Niecy Nash, “Getting On” (HBO) Allison Janney, “Mom” (CBS) Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live” (NBC) Gaby Hoffmann “Transparent” (Amazon) Judith Light, “Transparent” (Amazon) Anna Chlumsky, “Veep” (HBO)

Will probably win: Kate McKinnon Starring as the fan-favorite character in a big summer movie shouldn’t matter for the Emmys — but hey, it did for Melissa McCarthy. Anyway, “Ghostbusters” just might push the four-time nominee to her first win.

Deserves to win: Allison Janney Janney (and her chemistry with co-star Anna Faris) continues to be the best thing about Chuck Lorre’s newest sitcom. Plus, it would be her third win in a row.

Dark horse: Judith Light There’s still a lot of love for “Transparent,” and critics love Light.


“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (FX) “Fargo” (FX) “The Night Manager” (AMC) “Roots” (History) “American Crime” (ABC)

Will probably win: “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” It’s not even a contest. This miniseries and all its outstanding actors helped fuel a national conversation about the crime of the century, 20 years later.

Deserves to win: “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” See above.

Dark horse: “Fargo” If something crazy happens, “Fargo” could slip through, but there’s basically no shot.


“Luther” (BBC America) “All the Way” (HBO) “Confirmation” (HBO) “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride” (PBS) “A Very Murray Christmas” (Netflix)

Will probably win: “Confirmation” The acclaimed movie about Anita Hill and the Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings won over critics and voters, making it basically a lock.

Deserves to win: “Confirmation” An impressive retelling of the story with excellent performances, especially from star Kerry Washington.

Dark horse: “A Very Murray Christmas” Hey, people just really like Bill Murray.


“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” (HBO) “Late Late Show With James Corden” (CBS) “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (ABC) “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” (NBC) “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” (Crackle) “Real Time With Bill Maher” (HBO)

Will probably win: “Late Late Show With James Corden” Forgive us, Washington Post TV critic Hank Stuever — but “Late Late Show” already won two Emmys last weekend at the Creative Arts ceremony (for interactive program and variety special for “Carpool Karaoke”) and it could very easily take this category.

Deserves to win: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” The former “Daily Show” correspondent continues to dominate with viral videos every week as he eviscerates everything from politics to journalism.

Dark horse: “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Well, he IS the Emmys host …


“Drunk History” (Comedy Central) “Inside Amy Schumer” (Comedy Central) “Key & Peele” (Comedy Central) “Portlandia” (IFC) “Documentary Now!” (IFC)

Will probably win: “Inside Amy Schumer” Again, Schumer’s show didn’t have quite the cultural reach as it did last year, but she’s a bigger star than ever.

Deserves to win: “Key & Peele” This just feels like their year, as the comedy duo has been popping up everywhere.

Dark horse: Key & Peele” It’s the final chance to show this great series some love — the series finale aired in September.


“The Amazing Race” (CBS) “Dancing With the Stars” (ABC) “Project Runway” (Lifetime) “Top Chef” (Bravo) “The Voice” (NBC) “American Ninja Warrior” (NBC)

Will probably win: “The Voice” The NBC juggernaut has won twice already and continues to make headlines, while formerly annual winner “Amazing Race” is so over.

Deserves to win: “Dancing With the Stars” It’s a lot harder to produce that show than it looks, especially when protesters storm the stage to protest Ryan Lochte.

Dark horse: “American Ninja Warrior” A surprise entry in this category (that likely bumped off the final season of “American Idol”), this show is surprisingly addicting.