Emmy predictions: Who will win the night's major awards?

By Brian Lowry and Sandra Gonzalez, CNN

Published 8:51 AM ET, Fri September 14, 2018
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With "Game of Thrones" back in contention, the competition at Monday's Emmy Awards will be fierce. Click through the gallery to checkout our predictions for the shows and performances with the strongest fighting chance. HBO
Our pick: Laura Dern, "The Tale"
This is one of those apples-and-oranges categories, but Dern's searing portrayal of a woman dealing with her memories of childhood sexual abuse in the HBO movie seem very of the moment, and should be enough to top two limited-series leads -- Jessica Biel's star power in "The Sinner" and Michelle Dockery's western turn in Netflix's "Godless."
Other nominees: Jessica Biel ("The Sinner"), Michelle Dockery ("Godless"), Edie Falco ("Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders"), Regina King ("Seven Seconds"), Sarah Paulson ("American Horror Story: Cult")
Kyle Kaplan/HBO
Our pick: Darren Criss, "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story"
Criss shed his good-guy "Glee" image to play killer Andrew Cunanan in "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story." The hailed transformation could earn him a statue if Benedict Cumberbatch, a previous winner in this category, doesn't woo voters with his portrayal of troubled addict Patrick Melrose.
Other nominees: Antonio Banderas ("Genius"), Jesse Plemons ("USS Callister"), John Legend ("Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert), Jeff Daniels ("The Looming Tower"), Benedict Cumberbatch ("Patrick Melrose")
CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX
Our pick: Henry Winkler, "Barry"
After five previous nominations without an Emmy (including a trio for "Happy Days," which did earn him a couple of Golden Globes), Winkler is both a sentimental choice and a deserving one for his portrayal of an eccentric acting coach in HBO's hit-man dramedy "Barry."
Other nominees: Brian Tyree Henry ("Atlanta"), Louie Anderson ("Baskets"), Alec Baldwin (" Saturday Night Live"), Kenan Thompson ("Saturday Night Live"), Tony Shalhoub ("The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"), and Tituss Burgess ("Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt")
Jordin Althaus/HBO
Our pick: Kate McKinnon, "Saturday Night Live"
Nominated every year since 2014, McKinnon has a very good chance of notching her third consecutive win after what's arguably been one of her strongest seasons to date. Her biggest competition? Probably "Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" standout Alex Borstein, who has already won an Emmy this year. Borstein took home her first Emmy last weekend in the outstanding character voice-over performance category for her role as Lois Griffin in "Family Guy."Other nominees: Zazie Beetz ("Atlanta"), Laurie Metcalf ("Roseanne"), Betty Gilpin ("Glow"), Aidy Bryant ("Saturday Night Live"), Leslie Jones ("Saturday Night Live"), Alex Borstein ("The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"), Megan Mullally ("Will & Grace")
Will Heath/NBC/Episodic/Will Heath/NBC
Our pick: Yvonne Strahovski, "The Handmaid's Tale"
While there is some risk of a split vote with three strong performers from the Hulu drama dominating this category, anyone who tuned into the heart-pounding new season knows that Strahovski, as the stoic but immensely compelling commander's wife, Serena, was the true supporting MVP of the sophomore season.
Other nominees: Alexis Bledel ("The Handmaid's Tale"), Thandie Newton ("Westworld"), Lena Headey ("Game of Thrones"), Millie Bobby Brown ("Stranger Things"), Vanessa Kirby ("The Crown"), and Ann Dowd ("The Handmaid's Tale"
George Kraychyk/Hulu
Our pick: David Harbour, "Stranger Things"
Harbour lost out to John Lithgow's Winston Churchill last year, but he looks like a strong contender to get a chance to reprise his fiery SAG Awards speech in what is, admittedly, an absolutely loaded category, including two-time winner (and seven-time nominee) Peter Dinklage, who was out of the running last year because "Thrones" missed the eligibility window. Also, don't rule out Joseph Fiennes if "The Handmaid's Tale" mounts the equivalent of a season-two sweep.
Other nominees: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ("Game of Thrones"), Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones"), Mandy Patinkin ("Homeland"), Matt Smith ("The Crown"), Joseph Fiennes ("The Handmaid's Tale")
Our pick: "Last Week Tonight"
John Oliver's weekly HBO show is the two-time defending champ in this category and looks poised to score a hat trick, with the most likely chance of an upset coming from two fellow "The Daily Show" alums: Stephen Colbert's red-hot CBS show, which remains on a Trump administration tear; and Samantha Bee, whose harsh reference to Ivanka Trump -- which elicited an apology -- probably didn't hurt much with Emmy voters.
Other nominees: "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah," "The Late Late Show with James Corden," and "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert"
Our pick: "Saturday Night Live"
"SNL" has been nominated in this category every year since the outstanding variety series race was split into two categories. It scored its first win last year after previous winners "Inside Amy Schumer" and "Key & Peele" ended their runs and left the door open on their way out. With yet another hot year behind it, "SNL" is going to solidify its place as the one to beat in this race.
Other nominees: "Tracey Ullman's Show," "At Home with Amy Sedaris," "Drunk History," "I Love You, America," "Portlandia"
Will Heath/NBC
Our pick: "RuPaul's Drag Race"
Frankly, if this long-running delight doesn't sashay away with an Emmy this year, there will be demands for a recount.
Other nominees: "Top Chef," "The Voice," "The Amazing Race," "American Ninja Warrior," and "Project Runway"
Our pick: Donald Glover, "Atlanta"
Even in a category stacked with veterans like Larry David, Ted Danson and William H. Macy, look for Glover to pull out his second consecutive win in this category for his masterful work on "Atlanta: Robbin' Season." The Year of Donald Glover would not be complete without it.
Other nominees: Anthony Anderson ("Black-ish"), Ted Danson ("The Good Place"), Larry David ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"), Bill Hader ("Barry"), William H. Macy ("Shameless")
Quantrell Colbert/FX
Our pick: Rachel Brosnahan, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"
Brosnahan is certainly the anchor as the title character in Amazon's period dramedy, playing a woman who discovers an innate knack for standup comedy in the 1950s. 
Award watchers consider her a big favorite, though if there's a surprise, the best bet would be Issa Rae for HBO's "Insecure," which is currently in the midst of its second season.
Other nominees: Allison Janney ("Mom"), Issa Rae ("Insecure"), Tracee Ellis Ross ("Black-ish"), Lily Tomlin ("Grace and Frankie"), and Pamela Adlon ("Better Things")
Nicole Rivelli
Our pick: Elisabeth Moss, "The Handmaid's Tale"
Moss looks like a solid choice to record back-to-back wins for Hulu's dystopian drama, but she'll have to beat a field that includes Claire Foy's queen, Sandra Oh's turn in BBC America's critical darling and Keri Russell's swan-song in "The Americans.
Other nominees: Claire Foy ("The Crown"), Tatiana Maslany ("Orphan Black"), Sandra Oh ("Killing Eve"), Keri Russell ("The Americans"), Evan Rachel Wood ("Westworld")
George Kraychyk/Hulu
Our pick: Sterling K. Brown, "This Is Us"
This is one of the toughest categories to call. While "This Is Us" gave Milo Ventimiglia an abundance of showcase moments during which he rose to the occasion, Brown's effortless-seeming command over his role in this NBC drama is hard to beat. If this decision splits the TV Academy's "This Is Us" fans as much as it would split the average viewer, there's a chance Matthew Rhys' "Americans" performance could get an Emmy farewell, much like Kyle Chandler did for the final season of "Friday Night Lights."
Other nominees: Jason Bateman ("Ozark"), Ed Harris ("Westworld"), Matthew Rhys ("The Americans"), Milo Ventimiglia ("This Is Us"), and Jeffrey Wright ("Westworld"
Ron Batzdorff/NBC
Our pick: "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story"
FX's latest spin on the "American Crime Story" franchise has already notched four Emmys -- primarily in technical areas -- during the early Creative Arts ceremonies, which bodes well for a strong showing on Monday night. The most formidable competition would appear to be "Godless," a well-regarded western with an exceptionally strong cast.
Other nominees: "Genius: Picasso," "The Alienist," "Godless," and "Patrick Melrose"
Jeff Daly/FX
Our pick: "Atlanta"
With three-time champ "Veep" out of the running this year, the field is wide open for a new champ and none belong as the top of the heap more than "Atlanta," which In its second season bravely pushed boundaries, (like with that unsettling bottle episode about Michael Jackson-esque figure Teddy Perkins) and was a feat of unparalleled creativity. The only question here is whether the TV Academy found the cerebral comedy to be enough of a comedy to merit top honors. The possible spoiler? "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."
Other nominees: "Barry," "Black-ish," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "GLOW," "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "Silicon Valley," "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"
Guy D'Alema/FX
Our pick: "The Handmaid's Tale"
In what feels like a battle of the titans, "The Handmaid's Tale" -- and its powerful second season -- is the smart-money choice to repeat its 2017 win, despite facing "Game of Thrones," which was honored the two previous years before missing the last window. One suspects voters will be hard-pressed to avoid recognizing the HBO show for its upcoming final season, a bit of sentimentality that also makes the Russians -- that is, "The Americans," with its sensational series finale -- a wild card in this year's voting. As a consolation prize, the FX show is likely the frontrunner in the drama writing category.
Other nominees: "Game of Thrones," "Stranger Things," "The Americans," "This Is Us," "Westworld
George Kraychyk/Episodic/Hulu