Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

This year’s Emmy race for drama supporting actor shapes up as an intriguing battle between a couple of past winners and an actor who goes in as the sentimental (and perhaps prohibitive) favorite. The latter would be Jonathan Banks, nommed for Breaking Bad and building momentum as the man to beat. Of course, he’ll need to upend his fellow Bad man Aaron Paul, a four-time nominee and two-time victor for his work as mini meth mogul Jesse Pinkman. Then there is the man standing in the way of both, past winner Mandy Patinkin of Homeland. Also nominated (for the third consecutive year) is Peter Dinklage for Game Of Thrones (a winner in 2011), along with Bobby Cannavale for Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter.

SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTOR 

Jonathan Banks, (Breaking Bad, AMC)
Emmy History: 2 noms, 0 wins.

Why He Could Win: The buzz is with Banks and his world-weary hitman Mike Ehrmantrait, even though he was hit himself as season five wrapped. His last nom came 24 years ago (for Wiseguy).
Why He Could Lose: Banks’ castmate Aaron Paul has already won two of these things. Plus, he’s been off the show (and out of sight) for a year.

Related: EMMYS: Drama Series Overview

Mandy Patinkin, (Homeland, Showtime)
Emmy History: 4 noms, 1 win.

Why He Could Win: As Carrie Mathison’s (Claire Danes) mentor at the CIA, Patinkin’s alter ego Saul Berenson lends an already mega-intense show a riveting power and passion. The man knows how to act.
Why He Could Lose: It’s entirely possible he’ll get squished in a Breaking Bad nominee sandwich, or in this year’s rush NOT to honor Homeland.

Related: EMMYS: Lead Acting Handicap

Aaron Paul, (Breaking Bad, AMC)
Emmy History: 4 noms, 2 wins.

Why He Could Win: The TV Academy likes to get behind a performer and support them forever. They’ve already shown they love this guy.
Why He Could Lose: Since this category was first awarded in 1959, no man has ever won more than twice. History is not on his side.

Peter Dinklage, (Game of Thrones, HBO)
Emmy History: 3 noms, 1 win.

Why He Could Win: Dinklage has been nominated here three straight years for his work as Tyrion Lannister and won a couple of years ago – and that was before Thrones caught fire.
Why He Could Lose: Breaking Bad and its pair of nominees have all of the heat this time.

Bobby Cannavale, (Boardwalk Empire, HBO)
Emmy History: 4 noms, 1 win.

Why He Could Win: You’ve got to love a dude named Gyp Rosetti, which is the name of Cannavale’s character on Boardwalk. And his submitted episode Sunday Best is awfully strong.
Why He Could Lose: He’s considered a great actor, but remains something of an unknown with these voters.

Jim Carter, (Downton Abbey, PBS)
Emmy History: 2 noms, 0 wins.

Why He Could Win: Fans of Downton love his Mr. Carson. It’s impossible not to. Moreover, Mr. Carson isn’t dead yet, so Carter suffers no backlash.
Why He Could Lose: Unless your name happens to be Maggie Smith, this Emmy ship already has sailed. Sorry to break anyone’s heart.

DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Is it really possible for a mere mortal actress to have dreams of beating Maggie Smith out for an Emmy? This may well be the year that the answer is “Yes” if that mortal happens to be named Anna Gunn, who earned all sorts of praise for her indelible work last season on Breaking Bad. Of course, Smith is used to that for her consistently incandescent performance on Downton Abbey. So we have quite a two-horse race shaping up for supporting drama actress. They will oppose a pair of four-time nominees in Christina Hendricks for Mad Men and Christine Baranski for The Good Wife (who has 11 noms total) along with a pair of first-timers in Emilia Clarke (Game Of Thrones) and Morena Baccarin (Homeland).

Anna Gunn, (Breaking Bad, AMC)
Emmy History: 2 noms, 0 wins.

Why She Could Win: Few TV actresses have ever enjoyed a more memorable and dramatic season than did Gunn last year on Bad. Her tortured work as Skyler White was a revelation.
Why She Could Lose: A lot of people have gone broke betting against Maggie Smith. If Gunn’s series doesn’t pull a Homeland-style sweep, it’s doubtful she’ll win.

Maggie Smith, (Downton Abbey, PBS)
Emmy History: 7 noms, 3 wins.

Why She Could Win: She’s Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, and no one commands a screen (film or television) like the magnetic Maggie. She’s already won here twice in a row. Three seems entirely reasonable.
Why She Could Lose: The Breaking Bad bandwagon is poised to roll on down the Emmy highway, claiming potential nominees along the way.

Christina Hendricks, (Mad Men, AMC)
Emmy History: 4 noms, 0 wins.

Why She Could Win: Okay, this isn’t even funny anymore. After four straight noms, the lady is seriously overdue.
Why She Could Lose: Last year was thought to be Hendricks’ best shot in the heavily-buzzed episode “The Other Woman”. And she didn’t win. This year’s submission won’t be comparable.

Emilia Clarke, (Game Of Thrones, HBO)
Emmy History: 1 nom.

Why She Could Win: The academy will sometimes honor fresh-faced, first-time nominees in the absence of a clear, strong favorite, and Clarke has ridden the Game Of Thrones wave.
Why She Could Lose: There isn’t a single clear, strong favorite here. There are TWO. And Hendricks would be the longshot choice.

Christine Baranski, (The Good Wife, CBS)
Emmy History: 11 noms, 1 win.

Why She Could Win: Everyone loves Baranski, which is evidenced by her 11 nominations. This is her fourth straight in the category for Good Wife.
Why She Could Lose: They don’t love her enough to vote her the actual trophy. Well, they did once, but that was 18 years ago.

Morena Baccarin, (Homeland, Showtime)
Emmy History: 1 nom.

Why She Could Win: Baccarin’s work as Homeland’s Jessica Brody, the conflicted wife of Nicholas (Damian Lewis), has earned the Brazilian-born actress huge acclaim.
Why She Could Lose: The nom was deserved, but still a surprise. There’s simply too much competition here for her to have a legitimate shot this time.