LOS ANGELES -- Emmy Awards crystal-ball gazing was so much easier in the old days, circa the last few years: ABC’s “Modern Family” would be honored as best comedy series and a cable show, “Homeland” or “Mad Men” or such, would win best drama.
“Modern Family” may earn its fourth consecutive trophy at Sunday’s ceremony. But the drama picture is murkier because of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” the first online program to be nominated for top series honors under a 2007 Emmy rule allowing digital contenders.
It’s as big a revolution as the 1993 best comedy series nod for HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show,” which came after the TV academy opened its arms to cable as well as broadcast fare.
Whether “House of Cards” will actually claim the trophy is another matter. It took more than a decade before a cable show, HBO’s “Sex and the City,” prevailed as a top series winner.
In an impatient world, might “House of Cards” compress the time frame?
Here, from Associated Press television writers Lynn Elber and Frazier Moore, are predictions of what you can expect in a handful of key categories.
Photos: 2013 Primetime Emmy nominees
Should win: “Breaking Bad.” At the height of its power, and Walter White knows where you live.
Will win: “House of Cards.” Ambitious politician trumps ambitious drug dealer in Washington-bedazzled Hollywood.
Should win: “Breaking Bad.” TV’s best drama has never won!
Will win: “Breaking Bad.” With hysteria building in its final year, it’s going to cook up a win this time.
Should win: “Louie.” Life can be brutal, but also brutally funny in Louis C.K.’s hands.
Will win: “Modern Family.” It’s comfortably amusing and academy voters like it, they really like it.
Should win: “Louie.” This groundbreaking comedy has continued to, well, break ground.
Will win: “Modern Family.” Habits are hard for Emmy to break.
Actor, drama series
Should win: Jon Hamm, “Mad Men.” Don Draper finally confronts his pain and what he’s done to others. Hamm’s trophy is even more overdue.
Will win: Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards.” Take that, movies! TV is better than ever, and honoring a visiting big-screen star drives the point home.
Should win: Jon Hamm, “Mad Men.” Besides all the other reasons, his Hershey bar meditation clenched it.
Will win: Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards.” High-profile star in a high-profile series on a high-profile new channel.
Actress, drama series
Should win: Kerry Washington, “Scandal.” A powerhouse performance that keeps the madcap series spinning but not out of control.
Will win: Kerry Washington, “Scandal.” Don’t overthink what will be an unprecedented African-American victory; she simply deserves it.
Actor, comedy series
Should win: Don Cheadle, “House of Lies.” There was a reason for his upset Golden Globe victory over Alec Baldwin and other past winners.
Will win: Louis C.K. The sad clown made irresistible.
Should win: Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes.” He plays himself, and then some, and does it winningly.
Will win: Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory.” Three bids and two statues the past five seasons, but he hasn’t won since 2011. Too long?
Actress, comedy series
Elber: Should win: Laura Dern, “Enlightened.” If you’re looking for layered humanity in any character, she’s your woman.
Will win: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep.” She wears power and the lunacy of ambition well. Elaine who?
Moore: Should win: Laura Dern, “Enlightened.” Few viewers watched the show and it’s been axed, but her performance was perfection.
Will win: Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation.” She’s forged a character that’s the bullet train of the little engine that could.