Early Emmys predictions for Best Drama Series: ‘Empire,’ ‘Better Call Saul,’ …

With the Oscars officially behind us, that can only mean one thing: Emmy season has begun! Now that Gold Derby has opened its Emmys predictions center (make your early predix here), it’s time to turn our attention to the race for Best Drama Series.

Of last year’s nominees, only four — “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards” and “Mad Men” —  are back in the running. Reigning champ “Breaking Bad” has completed its run and “True Detective” is not eligible. All this means at least three open slots for Best Drama Series as there’s a new Emmy rule that brings the number of nominees to a minimum of seven. 

Last year, I reaped 77% accuracy predicting the Emmy nominations at Gold Derby, good enough for 12th place out of 2,566 overall predictors. Can I beat my own score this year, or will I fail miserably? Below, see my 7 ridiculously early Emmys predictions for Best Drama Series.

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Better Call Saul” – Season 1
With “Breaking Bad” a thing of the past (*sniff*), it makes sense that Emmy voters will want to honor its spin-off series much in the same way the Academy went crazy for the “Cheers” spin-off “Frasier.” Reviews and ratings are through the roof for this show, and AMC is so happy with the production that they ordered a second season prior to the premiere even airing. Emmys, it’s time to call Saul.

Bloodline” – Season 1
Even though it doesn’t stream until March 20, rest assured that the Netflix publicity team will work overtime to ensure that their newest drama will get seen by every Academy member under the sun. With big names both in front of the camera (Kyle Chandler, Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini) and behind (the “Damages” producers), it won’t be wise to bet against “Bloodline” come Emmy time.

Empire” – Season 1
Of the other first-season shows on my list, I’m less confident about this one simply because it airs on a major network (Fox). But, wow, those ratings. For seven weeks in a row, the ratings have continued to climb, which is almost unheard of these days. The fact that this family drama has two recent Oscar nominees as its leads — Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson — also doesn’t hurt.

House of Cards” – Season 3
This one’s a no-brainer. With 22 nominations and four wins over its first two seasons, “House of Cards” is the very definition of an Emmy darling. Add in the fact that this could be its final season, and all bets are off. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright could even go along for the ride and win lead acting trophies of their own come Emmy night.

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Downton Abbey” – Season 5
I’m hesitant to put this fan favorite British co-production in my predictions, but year after year “Downton” continues to surprise us on Emmy nominations morning. Heck, this show could even be nominated as Best Drama Series every single year until it finally leaves our airwaves — it’s that beloved within the industry, just ask the SAG Awards.

Game of Thrones” – Season 5
The closer winter comes, the better this show gets. Even though “Game of Thrones” has that unfortunate fantasy/sci-fi bias working against it, a snub here would still be extremely shocking. Fans love it, other dramas want to be it. Also of note, since HBO went on their cancelation streak last year, this is one of the few options for the paycaster to get a nod in the top Drama Series category.

Mad Men” – Season 7B
Like “The Sopranos” and “Breaking Bad” before it, “Mad Men” split up its final season into two halves, spread out over two Emmy cycles in order to maximize nominations and wins. There’s no doubt in my mind that AMC will go balls to the wall in order to get this show back in the mix for its last call. However, will those notoriously unsentimental Emmy voters finally give Jon Hamm a much-deserved trophy? Stay tuned.

Alternate: “Orange is the New Black” – Season 2
If “Orange” switches to the Drama Series categories this year, I’ll add it to my predix. Until then, I’m going to assume that it remains over in Comedy where it competed last year.

Poll: Will SAG Awards champ Viola Davis be first
African American to win Drama Actress at Emmys?

Those are my predictions for Best Drama Series. What are yours? Sound off in the comments section below.

Make your own Emmys picks now — click here — or scroll down to predict the Best Drama Series winner using our easy drag-and-drop menu. Best predictions will win $1,000. And the 24 Users with the best scores advance to a team to compete against our Experts and Editors next year. Meet the guy who won our contest to predict the Emmys last year — and learn how he did it and how you can be our next Gold Derby superstar. Register/log in to your account so you can also compete to predict “The Walking Dead,” “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race” and more.

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