Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"
Bob Odenkirk, "Better Call Saul"
Terrence Howard, "Empire"
Clive Owen, "The Knick"
Dominic West, "The Affair"
Bubbling under: Hugh Bonneville, "Downton Abbey"; Michael Sheen, "Masters of Sex"; Matthew Rhys, "The Americans"; Timothy Olyphant, "Justified"; Sam Heughan, "Outlander"; Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"; John Benjamin Hickey, "Manhattan"
For your consideration: Did any other character on television have to endure (and inflict) as many horrible acts as Matthew Rhys' spiritually exhausted Soviet spy in "The Americans"? Between the assorted murders, the forced seduction of an underage girl and the revulsion over the prospect of having his own teen daughter conscripted into the family business, Rhys' character faced a new endurance test each week, and the Welsh actor made you feel the personal cost of the accumulated betrayal.
Analysis: With the absence of "True Detective" and the exit of Bryan Cranston and "Breaking Bad," this category is ready for a reshuffle. Odenkirk, flexing his dramatic chops, slots in nicely for Cranston, and Howard should find his way in too for the winking gravitas he brought to "Empire." Chandler and Daniels both won this category recently and could easily find themselves among the nominees again, but we'll roll the dice with Owen's tightrope turn as the druggie doctor in "The Knick" and West's dirty rotten scoundrel from "The Affair." Call the latter a make-good for ignoring "The Wire's" McNulty.
Full Coverage: Emmys 2015
Taraji P. Henson, "Empire"
Viola Davis, "How to Get Away With Murder"
Robin Wright, "House of Cards"
Claire Danes, "Homeland"
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
Ruth Wilson, "The Affair"
Prime contenders: Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men"; Caitriona Balfe, "Outlander"; Taylor Schilling, "Orange Is the New Black"; Michelle Dockery, "Downton Abbey"
For your consideration: Colman won a British Academy Television Award for lead actress earlier this year for her role as a detective forced to question all assumptions about her town in "Broadchurch." Equally adept at comedy and drama, there isn't a better actress working today. American voters should definitely take a cue from the Brits here.
Analysis: Many thought Washington would become the first black actress to win this award when "Scandal" had its moment two years ago. Now it's Henson or, possibly, Davis who could soon be making history in this extremely competitive category. There are so many worthy contenders here that four nominees from last year — Washington, Dockery, Caplan and Schilling (now competing in drama) — could find themselves making way for the newcomers. Get ready for the "snubs" choir to sing.
Timeline: Emmy winners through the years
DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jonathan Banks, "Better Call Saul"
Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones"
Mandy Patinkin, "Homeland"
Jon Voight, "Ray Donovan"
Jim Carter, "Downton Abbey"
Ben Mendelsohn, "Bloodline"
Prime contenders: John Slattery, "Mad Men"; Alan Cumming, "The Good Wife"; Michael Kelly, "House of Cards"
Bubbling under: Matt Czuchry, "The Good Wife"; Sam Elliott, "Justified"; Kit Harington, "Game of Thrones"; Michael McKean, "Better Call Saul"; Brendan Coyle, "Downton Abbey"; Walton Goggins, "Justified"; Joe Morton, "Scandal"
For your consideration: Our hearts are still heavy that we'll never again (well, never say never, right?) hear Goggins' Boyd Crowder say, "Raaaylan Givens" and then launch into some masterful monologue, using, as one "Justified" character put it, "40 words when four will do." If there was an Emmy for elocution, Goggins would go unchallenged. The Television Academy should send him out in style.
Analysis: For whatever reason (too many choices leads to a doubling down on the familiar?), voters return to the same faces in this category from year to year. That's probably good news for Voight and Carter, actors whose shows didn't deliver particularly strong seasons. Figuring the academy has to pick at least one newcomer, we'll go with Aussie Mendelsohn because the category could use at least one bad guy.
DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Christina Hendricks, "Mad Men"
Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey"
Uzo Aduba, "Orange Is the New Black"
Kate Mulgrew, "Orange Is the New Black"
Lorraine Toussaint, "Orange Is the New Black"
Christine Baranski, "The Good Wife"
Prime contenders: Sissy Spacek, "Bloodline"; Lena Headey, "Game of Thrones"; Joanne Froggatt, "Downton Abbey"
Bubbling under: Linda Cardellini, "Bloodline"; Laverne Cox, "Orange Is the New Black"; Carrie Coon, "The Leftovers"; January Jones, "Mad Men"; Emilia Clarke, "Game of Thrones"; Natasha Lyonne, "Orange Is the New Black"
For your consideration: Nobody complained that there was too much Betty on "Mad Men" this season. It turned out that Matthew Weiner was right about Jones all along, though the writers had to sentence her character to death to get many viewers on board. Jones was magnificent in that cancer diagnosis episode and, simultaneously, on the Fox comedy "The Last Man on Earth."
Analysis: How many "Orange" actresses make it in — and which ones? Mulgrew was nominated for comedy supporting actress last year, with Aduba, Cox and Lyonne earning guest actress nods. (Aduba won the Emmy for her Crazy Eyes.) Now they're all competing in the same category, along with Toussaint, who, we'd argue, stole the show's second season as the ruthless Vee.