Well, that went about as well as could be expected.
Celtic dispatched Linfield as handily as you would think -- 2-0 in the away leg, and 4-0 in the home leg. I guess some might have expected even more lopsided scores, but a win's a win, and this was two wins and 0.5 for the coefficient. Also, this guarantees Celtic a place in the playoff round of either the Champions League or Europa League.
Aberdeen unexpectedly struggled to a 1-1 draw at home, meaning they needed at least one away goal to make it through. Midway through the second half, they had none, but they came up with two in rapid succession to progress. 0.375 for the coefficient, and they progress. We could quibble with the dropped 0.125 at home, but let's not.
Celtic face the Norwegian champions, Rosenborg. I have to admit, I like the qualifying better than the group-stage, where 15 out of the 32 teams are not actually league champions. Here, however, you have the Scottish champions facing the Norwegian champions. The Scottish champions got there after defeating the Northern Irish champions, who defeated the Sammarinese champions. The Norwegian champions defeated the Irish champions.
Celtic's Elo is 1596, Rosenborg's 1501. It shouldn't be a blowout, but Celtic should win comfortably. Not getting the full 0.5 for the coefficient would be a little bit of a disappointment, but the main thing is making it through. (Clubelo gives Celtic a 65.3% chance of advancing, but that seems a little low.)
Aberdeen is up against Cypriot side Apollon Limassol, the 3rd place Cypriot club (and cup winners). Aberdeen has an Elo of 1393, Apollon Limassol 1444. Clubelo gives this a 57.5% chance to go to the Cypriots. I have hope that this is Aberdeen's year to break through to the playoff round. So let's say any result that sees Aberdeen advancing is good, and exiting without picking up any points is bad.
Where We Stand
Hey, Scotland moved up to 26th from 27th, so that's something. (Not a good couple of weeks for Kazakhstan.) That was my "best realistic scenario". My best realistic scenario for this round is keeping 26th, which should be even easier since Celtic should deny Norway points by beating Rosenborg. 24th is theoretically possible, but very unlikely. On the other side, a Celtic collapse would be the only thing that would let Scotland slide to 27th or 28th.
The good news is that nobody below 21st place has more than 2 teams left in European competition, which puts things on an even playing field moving forward. Sweden lost its Champions League entrant, so they may be out of Europe sooner rather than later. So I think the best case scenario is having both Scottish sides advance with 0.75-1 point, and a lot of the nations above them having only 1 side left in Europe.
How bad has this year been for Scotland's coefficient? On the one hand, the 1.125 is worse than any comparable side ranked higher than Iceland (33rd). On the other hand, last year (not a bad year!) at this stage, they had 1.875. If they picked up 1.875 this year, they would be...in 26th place (although significantly closer to 25th).
The question going forward...will this be a struggle to keep the second-round Europa League entrance due to the Scottish Cup winner (or league runner-up). (This threshhold is 24th or 26th depending on...stuff.) Or can Scotland put two teams in the group stages and move closer to 18th (which would put the Cup winner in the third round) and higher?